Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center / April 15, 2022
If you’ve ever had an ear infection, then you know how painful they can be. The throbbing can feel unbearable! While they can clear up with medical treatment or on their own, if they go on for too long or occur too regularly it could cause lasting hearing loss. Here is everything you need to know about ear infections and how to deal with them.
Types of Ear Infections
Swimmer’s ear and otitis media: There are different types of ear infections such as “swimmers’ ear” caused when water is trapped in the outer ear. However, especially for children otitis media, also known as middle ear infections, are the most common type. Children being more prone due to a smaller ear canal can experience inflammation and pain in the ear canal and even temporary hearing loss.
Otitis media with effusion: In some cases, fluid builds up within the inner ear and does not dissipate after the initial inflammation of infection recedes. This is called otitis media with effusion when fluid builds up in the air-filled space behind the eardrum. The remaining fluid can cause a reduction of movement with the eardrum and middle ear bones (ossicles), which can compound hearing issues. In most cases with proper treatment the infection can be cleared and hearing can return but it’s important to take symptoms seriously and act promptly to avoid lasting damage.
Causes of middle ear infections
In most cases middle ear infections begin with the common cold. Congestion and of the upper respiratory system causes inflammation and swelling in the back of the throat which in turn affect the Eustachian tube – the tube which connects the throat to the middle ear. When you sneeze, swallow, or yawn, your Eustachian tubes open to keep air pressure and fluid from building up inside your ear, however when enflamed it cannot properly perform its function leading to dizziness, ear pain, pressure, and even temporary hearing loss.
Symptoms of middle ear infections
Because ear infections are so common in infants and toddlers it’s important to spot the symptoms since they can’t always verbalize them. However, anyone at any age can get an ear infection. Here are a few common signs of infection:
- Scratching or pulling at ear
- Slow response to sound
- Secretions from the ear
- Pressure in the ear
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Nausea or vomiting
If you or a child you care for, expresses any of these symptoms make sure to contact a medical professional. Specialists in ear disorders include otolaryngologists or ear-nose-throat doctor (ENT). The sooner you act the better as otitis media can quickly dissipate with the proper treatment.
How are ear infections treated?
To address the pain ibuprofen or acetaminophen is usually administers, while an antibiotic is used to end the infection and reduce swelling. Even as the symptoms will clear up within a day or two, it is important to take the entire course of prescribed antibiotics to prevent the infection from returning. In many cases ear infections clear up on their own without the use of an antibiotic so doctors often wait to prescribe one. However, in many cases when ear infections become chronic, medical professionals often take other measures.
For recurrent middle ear infections and lingering middle ear fluid that causes temporary hearing loss, an otolaryngologist may recommend a minor surgical procedure known as ear-tube surgery to insert tubes into the eardrums. These tiny tubes provide ventilation to the middle ear and prevent fluid buildup.
Preventing Ear Infections
While the common cold is extremely contagious, especially for children who may not always take precautions, they are hard to avoid. However, there are several factors which can lower your risk of colds which may instigate chronic or singular cases of otitis media. These include limiting exposure to smoke or secondhand smoke, following good hyenine habits such as washing hands, cough, or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hands and wear earplugs when swimming.
Addressing Hearing Loss
However hearing loss isn’t always from an infection. If you or someone you care for shows signs of hearing loss, it’s always a good idea to have a hearing exam. Hearing exams are painless and can help you understand exactly what is occurring with your hearing. Schedule an appointment today!