Ear Infections in Adults
What Is An Ear Infection?
An ear infection refers to a bacterial or viral infection impacting the middle ear, the part of the ear that sits behind the eardrum. Ear infections must be treated promptly. They are generally painful and can cause hearing loss if not addressed. Ear infections are also called otitis.
What Causes Ear Infection?
An ear infection is caused by infiltration of bacteria or virus into the middle ear. This usually results from another illness such as a cold, flu, or an allergy that creates swelling and congestion of the nasal passages. It can also be caused by contact between the ear and foreign objects.
What Are the Types of Ear Infection?
There are four major types of ear infection:
Acute Otitis Media
This is the most common type of ear infection. The infection enters the middle ear and causes parts of it to become swollen. This leads to earache as fluid builds up and presses onto the middle ear.
Otitis Media with Effusion (OME)
OME occurs occasionally when an ear infection has run its course, but some fluid is unable to escape from the mid-ear. There may be no symptoms, but the fluid can be detected by a doctor.
Chronic Otitis Media
Chronic otitis media refers to an ear infection that persists for a long time or comes back multiple times through several months or years. Fluid may drain from the ear, but it is usually not painful.
Chronic Otitis Media with Effusion (COME)
In COME, fluid accumulates within the inner ear repeatedly or remains in the ear for a long time despite no active infection. COME may make it harder to fight off ear infections in the future.
What Are the Symptoms of an Ear Infection?
Ear infections are characterized by swelling of portions of the middle ear. This leads to fluid buildup within the ear. As pressure increases, hearing is diminished, and an earache sets in.
How to Diagnose an Ear Infection?
An ear infection can only be conclusively diagnosed by a doctor. Specialized tools are used to look into the ear and test hearing. This rules out other conditions with similar symptoms.
What Are the Risk Factors of an Ear Infection?
Ear infections are most common during fall and winter. Poor air quality, exposure to airborne pollution, and seasonal allergies all increase the risk of ear infections.
When Should I See a Doctor for an Ear Infection?
Any pain or discharge from the ear should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible. These symptoms are often accompanied by a gradual reduction in hearing, rather than the sudden loss of hearing acuity that may follow eardrum damage. Prompt care helps you limit hearing loss.
How to Treat Middle Ear Infection?
An ear infection is generally treated with a combination of antibacterial and anti-pain medication. One or both of these may come in the form of ear drops. Decongestants and antihistamines can reduce fluid levels and help fluid drain out of the ear. Nasal steroids may also be used.
How to Treat Outer Ear Infection?
An outer ear infection is an infection of the outer opening of the ear canal, also called swimmer’s ear or otitis externa. Antibiotic ear drops are the most common treatment and may include steroids to reduce swelling. Antifungal ear drops are prescribed if the infection is caused by a fungus.
How to Prevent Ear Infection?
You can reduce your risk of ear infection by carefully cleaning the outside of your ears at least once a day, avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke, and reducing exposure to allergy triggers.
If you have an ear infection and have not yet found treatment, make an appointment today with Lakeside Allergy ENT in Rockwall, Forney, or Wylie, Texas. Our experienced ENT doctors can correctly diagnose ear infections and recommend the most effective treatments.