Ear Infections

The term "ear infection" can mean different things depending on what is happening in the ear and where in the ear it is occuring.

Swimmer's Ear

Swimmer’s ear is a colloquial phrase for an infection called otitis externa that can be found in the outer ear canal. It can occur when water and bacteria get trapped inside the ear canal. It is most likely to happen after swimming, hence the name, but can happen at any time.

People experiencing swimmer’s ear may notice the following symptoms:

  • Itching in the ear
  • Ear redness
  • Ear pain
  • A clogged sensation in the ear
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Swelling around the ear

Swimmer’s ear is most often treated with antibiotics.

Middle Ear Infection

Otitis Media is an ear infection that occurs when infectious fluid builds up inside the middle ear space (behind the eardrum).

Where does the fluid come from?

The middle ear space is connected to the nose and throat by a tube called the Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube’s job is to keep the middle ear space pressurized (it works extra hard when we change altitudes- like in an elevator or on an airplane. That’s why we feel our ears pop sometimes!), but it can also allow fluid to travel from the nose and throat into the ear. The fluid can be infectious or non-infectious.

Do middle ear infections only happen to children?

Because children, as well as their facial structures, are still growing, children are often more susceptible to middle ear infections. However, otitis media can happen to anyone of any age.

What are the symptoms of otitis media?

In children, symptoms may present themselves as:

  • Ear pain, especially when lying down
  • Tugging or pulling at an ear
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Crying more than usual
  • Fussiness
  • Trouble responding to sounds
  • Loss of balance
  • Fever of 100 F (38 C) or higher
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear

In adults, symptoms can include:

  • Ear pain
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear
  • Trouble hearing
  • Balance issues
  • Low-grade fever

How is it treated?

Otitis media can be treated with antibiotics or steroids. However, if the infection is recurring, antibiotics and steroids are not recommended for long-term use.

Sometimes, pressure equalization (PE) or vent tubes are recommended for on-going middle ear infection issues. PE tubes are tiny tubes that placed in the eardrum by creating a small incision in the eardrum. The tubes allow the built-up fluid in the middle ear space to drain out of the ear, helping prevent any long-term effects of infection build-up.

If you feel like you or your loved one is experiencing symptoms of swimmer’s ear or a middle ear infection, give us a call to schedule an appointment.

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