Ear infections can affect the inner or middle ear. They can cause pain, itchiness, and general discomfort. Some can even cause deafness. Children are more likely to suffer from ear infections than adults, but these issues can affect people of all ages. Some ear infections can clear up on their own, while others require treatment.
Ear Infection Causes
Ear infections are caused by a bacteria or virus that grows in the ear. They can come from the flu, a cold, sinus infection, or even an infected tooth. The bacteria or virus cause congestion in the ears, which can cause the Eustachian tubes to become blocked. Fluid becomes trapped in the ear and causes pressure to build up, which leads to pain.
Ear Infection Symptoms
The symptoms of ear infections can vary by person. Some people experience severe pain and hearing loss, while others don’t even realize they have an ear infection until they are diagnosed by a doctor. Some common symptoms of an ear infection include:
- Ear pain
- Ear pressure when lying down
- Difficulty hearing
- Discharge from the ear
- Pain behind the hears and in the throat
- Sore throat
- Tugging on the ears in children
Ear Infection Diagnosis
Ear infections are very common and easy for doctors to diagnose. In most cases, they can diagnose them after hearing about the patient’s symptoms. Sometimes, a doctor will look inside the ear for signs of congestion or redness. Tests are usually not necessary unless the ear infections are reoccurring. Some tests that doctors commonly conduct for this kind of issue include:
- Tympanometry: These tests check the movement of the eardrum. They can help determine how much air pressure is in the ear.
- Tympanocentesis: Doctors use a tiny tube to draw fluid from the inner ear. They then test the fluid to determine the cause of the infection.
- Hearing Tests: These tests determine how well the eardrum works, if there is a blockage causing the infection, or if the infection has led to hearing loss.
Ear Infection Treatment
Treatments for ear infections are focused on finding the cause of the infection and healing it. Some common treatment methods include:
- Pain Medication: Over-the-counter medication can be given to patients who are in severe pain. It is also often given to children so they can rest better.
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics can be prescribed to help clear up the infection.
- Ear Tubes: Tubes can be put in the ear to help prevent the eustachian tubes from closing so that infections are less likely. Usually recommended for kids having more than 5 ear infections in a year
- Ear Drops: Ear drops can be added to the ear to help reduce pain and discomfort. Some are medicated to help clear up the infection.
Ear Infection Prognosis
For most people, ear infections are not common and clear up easily. Infections that are left untreated can cause permanent damage to the eardrum along with permanent hearing loss. Finding a treatment method that works to not only prevent infections but to heal them quickly is essential.
American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery