Various Ear Infections Explained By Leading ENT Doctor
An ear infection is an infection either in the middle, inner or outer ear. Both children and adults can get an infection in the ear, but it is more common among young children.
Healthcare providers may prescribe the medicine to manage pain as the infection gets cured on its own. Based on the severity of the infection, antibiotics are prescribed to the patients.
Frequent recurrence of ear infections may lead to hearing problems.
To avoid complications, we should approach the healthcare provider whenever we get an ear infection.
Ear infections types
Broadly we can categorize ear infections under the following heads:
- Otitis externa: Here there is redness and inflammation of the external ear canal. This is where the outer ear connects with the eardrum. Otitis externa is also known as “swimmer’s ear”. This is because repeated exposure to water places our ear canal at more risk of inflammation.
- Otitis media (acute or chronic): This is the most common form of ear infection where inflammation or infection is found in the middle ear. This can be a viral or bacterial infection or can happen due to a cold, sore throat, or any other respiratory infection. In some cases there is fluid trapped in the middle ear leading to infection, this is called serous otitis media.
- Infectious myringitis: The most common form of this infection is mycoplasma, found alongside the common cold or other similar infections. This condition is typically found in children, but it can happen to adults also.
- Acute mastoiditis: When otitis infection starts affecting the mastoid bone, it causes this condition. This needs immediate medical attention else it can cause permanent damage.
- Vestibular neuronitis: This is a viral infection in the inner ear that starts affecting the cranial nerve. Vestibular neuronitis is triggered by inflammation of the vestibular portion of the eighth cranial nerve. This is a severe infection that causes gait imbalance.
Ear infections symptoms
We can anticipate the infection when we are aware of the symptoms. Although symptoms may vary, some are common among all patients.
Some of the common ear infection symptoms have been mentioned below:
Yellow or white fluid discharge from the ear is one of the common ear infection symptoms. In most types of infection, the patient may experience drainage.
Pain is present almost in all types of infections. But the severity of the pain may differ from person to person.
Pain is common both among children and adults.
Nerves in the middle ear send signals to the brain through which we can hear.
The build-up of fluids near the eardrum may slow down the movement of the signal. It disrupts hearing.
The infection causes fever, and the temperature may go up to 100° F. Most children with ear infection experience fever.
Headache is another symptom of infection in the ear. Although it is not common among children, adults with the infection may often experience headaches.
Difficulty in swallowing food
When children have an infection in the ear, they find it difficult to swallow food as the pressure in the ear causes more pain.
Therefore, children with infections are not willing to eat food.
The ear is a very vital but small organ, hence it will not be able to conceal discomfort for too long. The common symptoms of ear infections will be:
- mild pain or discomfort in the ear.
- experience persistent pressure inside your ear.
- pus-like fluid drainage in the ear.
- partial or gradual hearing loss.
These symptoms might come and go, or may happen in either or both ears, and can last between 3 days to even a week. In children, additional symptoms will include:
- Crying due to ear pain and drainage
- Rubbing or pulling the ear
- Fever with headache
- No reaction to certain sounds
- Frequently losing balance
- Restlessness & loss of appetite
How to diagnose ear infections
The healthcare provider starts diagnosing ear infections with the help of an instrument called an otoscope. The provider examines the presence of redness, drainage of fluid, swelling etc.
If any of the symptoms are present, the healthcare provider may recommend going through the following tests:
Test of the fluid sample
The doctor may recommend testing the sample of the fluid in the ear. The doctor normally recommends such tests when the infection gets worsens.
The recommendation of the blood test is to measure immunity.
The doctor recommends it to check whether the immunity is strong enough to fight against the bacteria and viruses in the ear or not.
Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
The doctor recommends a CT scan to examine the spread of the infection. The doctor will prescribe medicine based on the spread of the infection.
Ear infection often causes hearing loss. Therefore, the doctor also tests hearing power to check if the hearing capacity of the patient is well or not.
Tympanometry helps measure the eardrum’s responses when it comes into contact with air pressure.
Ear infections causes
There are many ear infections causes. The primary reason for the infection is that fungal and viral bacteria infect different parts of the ear.
Swelling eustachian tubes
Eustachian tubes are connected from the middle ear to the throat. These tubes help to regulate pressure, refresh the air in the ear and drain secretions from the ear.
When eustachian tubes get swollen, the fluid build-up in the ear, which leads to ear infections.
Fluid build-up without any infection
Sometimes non-infectious blockage in the eustachian tube also causes it to be swollen. In such a situation, fluid builds up without any bacterial infection.
When the fluid gets infected, the infection occurs in the ear.
Prevention of ear infection
We can prevent infections in the ear with the help of the ideas mentioned below:
- Keeping the ear dry after a shower
- By avoiding smoking and staying in a smoke-free environment.
- By taking vaccines
- Preventing cold and flu
- Avoiding allergies by taking medications
Potential complications of an ear infection
Ear infections can clear up without any medical intervention, but the flip side is that they tend to keep coming back. So while the complications in most cases do not exist, in acute cases the following might be possible:
- hearing loss, gradually becoming severe, leading to deafness.
- delay of speech in children, especially if there is chronic fluid build-up.
- mastoiditis where the infection spreads to the mastoid bone of the skull.
- meningitis, which is a bacterial infection that affects membranes of the brain & spinal cord.
- ruptured eardrums due to wrong treatment conditions, etc.
Ear infections treatment
The doctor may apply different treatment methods based on the age, severity and type of infection.
In case of mild symptoms, the doctor may prescribe normal medications and see whether the infection goes on its own or not. Otherwise, the doctor may apply the following treatment procedures:
The doctor will prescribe antibiotics when the infection is caused by bacteria and lasts longer.
In case of severe infection also, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics. However, the doctor will observe for a few days before prescribing antibiotics.
Even if, in most cases, the ear infection disappears on its own, the pain often annoys the patients. To cure the pain, the doctor prescribes painkillers. The doctor prescribes pain-relieving ear drops and other medications.
Ear infection often appears to be mild. Still, you should not take it lightly as it may become severe if we do not take good care. You should be aware of the symptoms and find the reason for the ear infection.
Based on the symptoms, we can understand whether the infection is mild or severe. If you notice any symptoms of severe infection, you should approach our healthcare providers immediately.
In case of an ear infection, we can visit the C K Birla Hospital and book an appointment with Dr Anil Kumar. It is one of the best hospitals that provide compassionate care and hassle-free treatment.
1. How do I get rid of an infection in my ear?
We can eliminate infection by keeping our ears clean and dry. We should also follow some important steps to avoid cold.
2. Will an ear infection go away on its own?
Mild ear infections can go away on their own. But we may have to take medicine in case of severe infection.
3. Which beverages help during ear infections?
Ginger juice can help to cure ear infections as ginger contains anti-inflammatory properties.
4. When should I go to the doctor for this?
We should visit the doctor when we have a severe fever, headache, hearing problems or any other symptoms of severe infection.
5. How long can you leave an ear infection untreated?
In most cases, the middle ear infection clears within 3 to 5 days. When the infection does not clear on its own, we should opt for treatment.