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All You Need to Know About Ear Infections

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All You Need to Know About Ear Infections

ENT- Otolaryngology | Posted on 08/22/2023 by Dr. VIJAY KUMAR SHARMA



Introduction

Ear infections are among the common illnesses experienced by us at some point in our lives. They can often give the feeling of discomfort and pain. Ear infections can be encountered by both children and adults causing a disturbance in the regular schedules. They are usually diagnosed as viral or bacterial infections. Treatment for ear infection entirely depends on its type and its severity. According to a survey, it is found that around 75 percent of children often experience ear infections before they are three years old. 

Ear infections are also referred to as middle ear infections, serous otitis media, secretory otitis media, and glue ear. They are correctly understood and their common happening implies that proper research is often performed. In this blog, you will find a clear discussion of their symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options available. However, kindly understand that the information is completely research-based and doesn’t intervene with the consultation of a doctor. You can book your appointment with Rukmani Birla Hospital in Jaipur, one of the best multispeciality hospitals offering exceptional patient care.

What is an ear infection?

An ear infection is a contagion caused by a bacteria or virus in the middle ear. The infection leads to inflammation and fluid accumulation within the ear's internal spaces. The middle ear is a space filled with air located behind the eardrum. It has vibrating bones that transform the sound from outside of the ear into significant brain signals. 

Ear infections are usually painful and distressing as the extra fluid accumulation and inflammation enhance the eardrum pressure. They can be both chronic and acute, however, a chronic type can be a matter of concern as it can harm the middle ear permanently.

What are the types of ear infections?

There are categories of ear infections that are also referred to as types. Hence, here are the types of infection: 

  • Acute otitis media (AOM): It is the most common type and doesn’t often pose any serious ear infection form. The middle ear might get swollen and infected, and fluid is treed behind the eardrum. Fever is one of the symptoms of this type. 
  • Otitis media with effusion (OME): When there is a fluid left behind the eardrum after an ear infection has run its course, it is called OME. Patients often don’t experience any symptoms, however, a doctor can detect the fluid remaining. 
  • Chronic otitis media with effusion (COME): It is known as a fluid that frequently returns to the middle ear. It can occur with or without infection. It causes decreased agility for fighting other infections. This type harms the ability of hearing.

What are ear infection symptoms?

Ear infection symptoms in both adults and children are different. They usually occur after a cold. Here are some of the symptoms experienced by adults: 

  • Appetite loss 
  • Ear pain 
  • Difficult sleeping 
  • Problems in hearing when it’s blocked 
  • A feeling of fullness or ear pressure 
  • Drainage that is yellow, brown, or white from the ear. It indicated that the eardrum is broken 

It is recommended not to place anything in the ear canal if there is drainage. Any item or thing touching the eardrum might lead to more harm. 

Symptoms in children

As children or infants cannot share their ear infection symptoms, it is vital to identify the signs. A child who has an ear infection might experience the following symptoms:

  • Crying more than often 
  • Acting fussy 
  • Rubbing or tugging on their ears
  • Fever ranging from 100 to 104 degrees 
  • Mouth breathing 
  • Snoring 
  • Loss of appetite

What are ear infections causes?

Usually, ear infections start with an allergic reaction, flu, or cold. It increases sinus mucus and causes fluid clearance by the eustachian tubes. The primary disease leads to nasal passages inflammation, throat, and eustachian tubes. Here is why ear infections are caused: 

  • The role of Eustachian tubes: The Eustachian tubes play an important role by connecting the middle ear to the throat back. These tubes are accountable for opening and closing so that air pressure is regulated in the middle ear. If there is an infection in the respiratory area, then it can restrict the Eustachian tubes leading to fluid accumulation in the middle ear. If the fluid is infected bacterially, then it causes infection. 
  • The role of adenoids: These are tissue pads situated at the nasal cavity back. They respond to moving bacteria and viruses that play a vital role in the functioning of the immune system. Adenoids can at times block the bacteria. It causes infection and Eustachian tube inflammation in the middle ear. They are more active in the children and they might experience ear infections more than adults due to adenoids.

How are ear infections diagnosed?

Ear infection diagnosis is a simple process when compared to any other illness. Sometimes, diagnoses are confirmed based on the symptoms alone. The doctor will involve using an otoscope, an instrument that helps in detecting a fluid behind the eardrum. 

A doctor might also involve using a pneumatic otoscope as it will help in testing for infection. The instrument also detects for blocked by puff-releasing air into the ear. Fluid buildup leads to the moving of the eardrum less than usual. Other tests will be used for confirming the diagnosis of middle ear infection. Here are these tests: 

  • Tympanometry: This is used for measuring the eardrum movement. It helps in sealing off and adjusting the pressure inside the ear canal. It allows the doctor to check for the middle ear pressure. 
  • Acoustic reflectometry: This test is useful in bouncing sound against the eardrum. Fluid build levels are indicated by the sound amount that is bounced back. 
  • Tympanocentesis: The doctor might involve using this method if an ear infection is not responding to the treatment. By creating a small hole in the eardrum, fluid is drained to detect the infection's cause. 

What are the options available for ear infection treatment?

Usually, most ear infections resolve on their own and don’t require antibiotic treatment. However, certain factors determine when there is a need for ear infection treatment. Here are some of the options available:

  • One of the treatment options is to wait-and-see approach. In this, the doctor recommends observing if ear infection symptoms improve on their own. They often resolve within a period of one to two weeks without needing any treatment. 
  • Pain management is the second option in which the doctor often recommends treatments for reducing pain from an ear infection. It involves pain medication such as over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc. for pain relief. Anesthetic drops are also recommended for pain if the eardrum doesn’t have a hole or tear in it. 
  • Antibiotic therapy is recommended for an ear infection in different situations. First is, when a six-month year child or older has severe ear pain along with a fever. Children who are above 24 months of age and experience middle ear pain with a fever of more than 102 degrees are recommended with this therapy. 
  • Ear tubes are often recommended for children for draining out the fluid from the middle ear. This procedure is recommended if there is a constant fluid buildup or infection effusion. Ear tubes help in creating an airway that further benefits ventilation of the middle ear and averts fluids buildup behind the eardrum.

Conclusion

Since ear infections in children are more common than in adults, it would be wrong to misinterpret that they cannot occur. If you feel that you might be suffering from an ear infection, make sure to get in touch with a doctor. If an ear infection is left untreated for a long time, it can cause permanent hearing loss and the infection can also spread to the different parts of the head. With prompt and proper treatment, this risk can be eradicated to a great extent. 

FAQs

 

How to cure an ear infection?

Ear infections can be cured with a wait-and-see approach, pain management with medications, antibiotic therapy, and ear tubes specifically in children. 

How to prevent ear infections in babies?

To prevent ear infections in babies, it is recommended that they should get vaccinations before they are two years of age. 

Can an ear infection cause a headache?

Yes, it is common that headache is experienced when an individual suffers from an ear infection.