Ear Infection – Symptoms, Causes & How to Prevent Them

✓ Evidence Based

What causes an ear infection?

An ear infection arises when the Eustachian tubes becomes enflamed or congested, leading to infection of the middle ear. The Eustachian tube is a small tube that runs from each ear directly to the back of the throat. An ear infection can heal itself most of the time. Treatment can start with keeping an eye on the problem, but antibiotics can help if the ear infection doesn’t clear itself. Suffering from a number of ear infections can lead to hearing problems and other difficulties.

ear infectionTypes of Ear Infections

Outer Ear Infections

Outer ear infections (which are often known as otitis externa) come in two main types, which are an acute infection or a chronic condition. The difference between the two is that the acute infection comes on very quickly and generally does not last longer than 7 days once treatment has been applied. If you are suffering from a chronic outer ear infection, it is likely that you will suffer for a much longer period of time or the problems will keep on recurring.

There are a number of situations that cause an outer ear infection, from something that irritates the ear canal to more severe bumps that actually damage the outer ear. This means that simply cleaning your ears with cotton buds could cause outer ear infections if you are not careful.

Middle Ear Infections

There are a number of infections that can affect people’s hearing and one of the most common ear infections is a middle ear infection, especially amongst younger children. People suffer ear infections at any age, but it is said that the majority of ear infections occur in children aged between 6 and 18 months.

It is important to be aware of the symptoms and to know that your child may be suffering from a middle ear infection. Some of the symptoms will overlap with the symptoms from a number of other illnesses, so it is not always a perfect gauge of what your child is suffering from. However, recognising these symptoms quickly will enable you to seek proper medical assistance as soon as possible.

Inner Ear Infections

A condition diagnosed as an inner ear infection may actually be a case of inflammation, and not an actual infection. In addition to ear pain, symptoms may include dizziness, tinnitus, nausea, vomiting and hearing loss.

Ear Infection Symptoms

A few of the common symptoms of ear infections include:

  • Distress inside the ear
  • Hearing loss
  • A feeling of compression inside the ear that persists
  • Pus-like ear drainage

When to seek help for a possible ear infection

Sometimes ear infections resolve on their own within a few days. If your symptoms don’t improve, you should book an appointment with your doctor.

If you experience recurrent ear infections, you may find that your doctor needs to drain fluid from the eardrum via a tube. This can relieve the pressure and the pain that develops in an infection and can prevent a ruptured eardrum. Antibiotics may be prescribed if you ear infection doesn’t improve.

Diagnosing Ear Infections

Your doctor will examine your ears with an instrument called an otoscope. The check-up may show:

  • Redness or pus-like fluid inside the middle ear
  • Fluid draining from the middle ear
  • A perforation in the eardrum
  • A bulging or collapsed eardrum

Treatment for Ear Infections

The type of ear infection you have will determine the type of treatment. In many cases of middle and outer ear infections, antibiotics are necessary.

Preventing Ear infections

There are a few things you can do to reduce your chance of getting an ear infection, although it’s important to note that you can’t always prevent them.

To help prevent an ear infection, follow the guidelines below:

  • Keep your ears clean by washing them and using a cotton swab carefully. Make sure you dry your ears after swimming or taking a shower.
  • Don’t try to clean your ears with your finger or use a cotton bud.
  • Manage your allergies by avoiding triggers.
  • Wash your hands meticulously. Make an effort to avoid people who have colds or other upper respiratory problems.

Can an ear infection cause hearing loss?

Hearing loss can affect people of any age, and can be related to birth defects, exposure to loud noises or the aging process, but did you know that ear infections can also cause hearing loss?

Ear infections, especially very severe or recurrent infections, can lead to temporary or permanent hearing problems, known as conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss develops as a blockage in the middle ear, and the build-up of fluid or ear wax that result from an ear infection are among the common causes of this. When an ear infection affects the middle ear, it is known as otitis media.

Ear infections are usually treated with antibiotics, and when this is successful, hearing will be restored to normal levels. You may experience temporary hearing loss during the course of the infection, but this is not usually a cause for concern. If your ear infections are recurrent, you may find that the tympanic membrane in your ear becomes thicker or scars, which is known as tympanosclerosis. This is more likely to cause long-term damage to hearing, and hearing aids may be a good option for you in this instance. If your hearing is affected after an ear infection, you should see an audiologist or a doctor as soon as possible. You may find that hearing aids can restore a good level of hearing for you, and even if only one ear is affected, it may be that wearing hearing aids in both ears gives you the best and most balanced hearing experience.

Book A Free Hearing Test at Hidden Hearing

Hidden Hearing is Ireland’s leading private provider of hearing care solutions, and our national network includes over 80 clinics. We have an excellent variety of hearing aids, including small and highly sensitive models that are invisible to other people, and you can try these when you visit your local clinic.

If you are concerned about your hearing, contact us as soon as possible to book a free hearing test and talk to one of our audiologists about your experiences. Hearing loss can deteriorate quickly and lead to many general health problems, such as dementia and depression, but many people feel worried about visiting a hearing clinic. Our staff are committed to finding the best solutions for you and your lifestyle, so don’t put off seeking help. Contact Hidden Hearing online today, or pop into your local clinic.

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