Ears are vital organs of the human body. We are able to listen to the world with just the courtesy of our ears. Our ears not only help us to hear, but also maintain equilibrium of our body.
But, there are several complications associated with our ears which affect normal hearing and may lead to serious problems. Here are some information about ear infections, their causes, effects, and treatment and remedies.
What are ear infections?
Ear infection is the infection of the middle ear, which is the air filled cavity behind the eardrum, containing tiny vibrating bones (malleus, incus, and stapes) of the ear. The medicinal name for ear infection is otitis media. These are more common in childrens, as compared to adults.
It is mostly observed that ear infections clear up on their own, therefore treatment may begin to manage pain and to monitor the problem. Most ear infections are caused by bacteria, therefore antibiotics are used to clear such infections. Some over-the-counter pain medicines (such as ibuprofen) are also effective to clear the ear infections.
Some people may acquire multiple ear infections, which can cause serious hearing problems and other complications. These are generally non-contiguous.
Who is most likely to get an ear infection?
Middle ear infections can occur at any time of the age. But it is most common during childhood and is the leading cause of your children to visit your healthcare provider. The most common age lies between 3 months and 3 years and can happen till age 8. It is generally observed that about 25% of the children may also face repeated ear infections. Adults may also acquire ear infections but the frequency is generally very low.
Following are some risk factors for middle ear infection:
- Age. Children are more susceptible to such conditions compared to adults.
- Colds. The risk to develop ear infection may increase if the person is suffering some colds.
- Family history. It is observed that ear infection complications may tend to run in families.
- Allergies. Allergies can cause swelling of nasal pathways and upper respiratory tracts which in turn enlarge the adenoids. These enlarged adenoids have the tendency to block the Eustachian tubes: which prevents the ear fluids from draining. This can lead to fluid build-up and ultimately ear infections may be caused.
- Chronic illness. People with chronic or long term diseases are more likely to develop ear infections. Especially patients with immune deficiency and respiratory disease such as cystic fibrosis and asthma seem to have ear infections.
- Poor air conditions. It is seen that people exposed to poor air such as tobacco smoke are more likely to adopt ear infections.
Symptoms of ear infections
Common symptoms of ear infections are listed below:
- Ear pain which increases while laying down
- Loss of balance
- Difficulty in hearing
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Fever of 38°C or more
- Drainage of fluid from ears. This fluid may be yellow, brown or white and is not related to your earwax
- Trouble hearing
How are ear infections diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider may do your ear examination to get information about the severity of ear infection. They might also perform some casual checkups such as listening to your breathing with a stethoscope.
Ear infections can be prevented. Let us look upon some common ways to prevent such complications.
- Preventing common flu and other illnesses. Common flu can lead to ear infections. It is therefore advised to get such hygiene conditions to avoid these common illnesses. Teach your children to wash their hands frequently and do not share drinking and eating utensils. Coughing or sneezing could only be done into your elbow. Try keeping your children at home to avoid contact.
- Breastfeeding your baby. Try to breastfeed your children if possible. Since breastfeed contains antibodies which can provide your baby with ultimate protection.
- Take vaccination. Talk your doctor to advise you with vaccination to immunise you for the diseases.
Additional frequently asked questions (FAQs) about ear infections
- What happens if ear infection spreads? An untreated ear infection may lead to complications which may affect nearby tissues and ultimately cause meningitis (which is a rare case).
- Can I shower while having ear infections? When your ears are infected, it is advised to avoid any water entering your ears. Therefore, showers are not advisable. But shower with precautions could be done.
- Do ear infections get worse at night? The pain of ear infections may worsen at night. Therefore, it can disturb your sleep patterns.
- How long does antibiotics take to clear ear infections? Generally, it is seen that antibiotics may clear an ear infection within 10 days. But this period can be increased or decreased depending upon the severity of infection.
Ear infections may seem ordinary, but can affect daily life. Therefore, they must be treated as soon as possible by consulting your otolaryngologist. An otolaryngologist is a specialist which can treat problems related to your ears, nose or throat. At Marham.Pk, We have the best otolaryngologists to provide you with best treatment and guidance.
Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health and well-being.