Ear Infection

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Medically Reviewed by Dr. Aman Priya Khanna
Written by Hexahealth Care Team, last updated on 11 July 2023| min read
Ear Infection

Quick Summary

Ear Infection: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Ear infections are a common problem in children, but they can also occur in adults. Ear infections are caused by bacteria or viruses that enter the middle ear through the Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the back of the throat.

Symptoms of an ear infection can include:

  • Ear pain
  • Fever
  • Rubbing or pulling at the ear
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Vertigo

Ear infections are diagnosed by examining the ear with an otoscope. Treatment for ear infections typically includes pain relievers and antibiotics.

In some cases, ear infections can lead to more serious complications, such as meningitis or mastoiditis.

To prevent ear infections, it is important to keep the ears clean and dry. Avoid swimming in dirty water and blowing your nose

Is your kid suffering from acute pain in the ear? It could be a sign of an ear infection. Although ear infection is a condition that can happen to anyone, children are more prone to get it than adults. Read on to find out what an ear infection is and when you may need to consult a doctor. 

Ear Infection 

Ear infections can occur in your middle, inner, or outer ear. The most common ear infection, also known as acute os media, is an infection in the middle ear, the air-filled space behind your eardrum containing vibrating bones. Ear infections can be critical and chronic. Acute infections last for a short duration but are extremely painful. On the other hand, the infections that last for a long me or are recurring in nature are called chronic ear infections. These infections do not oen clear up on their own, causing permanent damage to the middle and inner ear. 

Symptoms and Signs of Ear Infection

Different ear infection symptoms are seen in both children and adults. These symptoms may either persist or may come and go. Moreover, these symptoms can occur in one or even both ears. When experienced in both ears, these symptoms signify a double ear infection, which is usually more profound. You can notice the signs of acute ear infections more easily than chronic infections.

The ear infection symptoms in kids include:- 

  1. Rubbing or pulling of the ear 
  2. Stop reacting to certain sounds 
  3. Become fussy and restless 
  4.  Get a high fever 
  5. Face difficulty in sleeping 
  6.  Frequently lose their balance (Vergo) 
  7. Cry more than usual 
  8. Experience a severe headache 
  9. The ear infection symptoms in adults include:- 
  10.  Have trouble hearing 
  11.  Drainage of pus-like fluid from the ear 
  12.  Experience pain and discomfort in the ear 
  13.  Feel some pressure inside the ear 
  14. Typically, an ear infection lasts for less than three days. However, in some cases, it can stay up to a week. 

Causes of Ear Infection 

Ear infections are generally caused by bacteria like Streptococcus pneumonia and Haemophilus influenza or viruses that cause cold and flu. These bacteria and viruses cause the congestion of nasal passages and Eustachian tubes, causing fluid to build up in your middle ear.

Addressing the question that might be running in your head at this point: What are Eustachian tubes? Eustachian tubes are a pair of small, narrow tubes running from your middle ears to the back of your throat. 

Role of Eustachian Tubes 

The throat end of the Eustachian tubes open and close to refresh the air in the ear, regulate the air pressure and drain normal secretions from the middle ear. ● If the tubes are swollen, they become blocked, causing a build-up of fluids in the middle ear.  This build-up fluid can cause infections and result in ear infection symptoms. ● In children, the Eustachian tubes are even narrower, making it more challenging to drain secretions, resulting in blockage of the tube. 

Apart from Eustachian tubes, ear infections can also result from infected adenoids. What are adenoids? Adenoids are the two pads of tissue on the roof of your mouth behind the nose that protect your body from infections. 

Role of Adenoids 

  1.  Adenoids are situated near the opening of the Eustachian tubes. 
  2. Swelling in the adenoids can result in the blockage of the tubes, leading to middle ear infections.
  3. The occurrence of ear infections due to adenoids is most common in children because they have larger adenoids than adults. 

When Should You Consult a Doctor? 

  1. Although most ear infections clear on their own in a few days, it is crucial to understand when to visit a doctor to ensure that the symptoms do not indicate anything serious. The signs of an ear infection can relate to various conditions. Therefore, geng a detailed diagnosis and a quick ear infection treatment are vital. Consult your doctor in the following situations:- 
  2. You or your child has a fever of 102.2℉ or higher 
  3.  Discharge of fluid like pus and blood from the ear 
  4. Severe ear pain 
  5.  The child becomes irritablafterr sleepless after a cold 
  6. Experience hear loss 
  7.  Symptoms become worsening  after 2-3 days 

Other symptoms include a stiff neck, headaches, loss of balance, drowsiness, etc. 

Consulting a doctor and geng a proper ear infection treatment is essential to prevent your child from hearing loss. Ear infections that come over and over can cause permanent hearing loss for your child. Therefore, if the pain lingers for more than 2-3 days, it is best to consult your doctor. 

How Can It Be Diagnosed?

  1. While diagnosing ear infections, your doctor will study the symptoms you experience by using an instrument called an otoscope and examining your ears. An otoscope includes a light and magnifying lens that help reveal:- 
  2. A collapsed or swelled eardrum. 
  3.  Redness, blood, or pus-like fluid inside the middle ear 
  4. Drainage of fluid from the middle ear 
  5. An aperture in the eardrum 
  6. Some other additional tests that help to diagnose an ear infection include:- 
  7.  Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: To check whether the infection has spread past your middle ear, your doctor may suggest getting a head CT scan. ● Blood Tests: Blood tests are done if your health professional witnesses signs of immune problems. 
  8.  Fluid Sample: If your infection is advanced, the doctor may collect a fluid sample from your middle ear to determine if any abiotic-resistant bacteria are present in the liquid. ● Acoustic Reflectometry: This test measures the amount of fluid in your ear by measuring how much sound is reflected from the eardrum. 
  9. Tympanometry: Tympanometry is a test used to measure the movement and function of your eardrum and middle ear. 
  10.  Hearing Test: Your doctor may conduct a hearing test if you have a chronic ear infection. How to Proceed? 
  11. As per the physical examination and diagnosis of your middle ear infection, your doctor may suggest the following types of treatment:- 
  12. Pain Relief: The doctor may recommend a pain reliever to help you manage the pain if any. 
  13. Antibiotics If you do not feel beer even after 2-3 days, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics for severe cases. 
  14.  Drainage: If your child has an ear infection that keeps coming back or causes serious complications, the doctor might perform a myringotomy. The doctor creates a small hole in the eardrum to drain fluids such as pus and blood. A tube is then placed into the eardrum to balance air pressure.
  15. Other than the medical ear infection treatment, some lifestyle changes can help in preventing ear infections:- 
  16. Wash your hands for roughly 20 seconds with soap and clean running water to reduce the spread of germs and infections 
  17. Avoid smoking in close spaces or near your child 
  18. Breasted your infants 
  19.  Avoid overly crowded areas to protect your ears from noise 
  20.  Since ear pain can be occasionally related to a sore throat, gargle more oen with warm water to fight infections 
  21.  Stay up-to-date on vaccines and immunisations 

How to proceed

  1. After the physical examination and diagnosis of your middle ear infection, your doctor may suggest the following types of treatment:-
  2. Pain Relief: The doctor may recommend a pain reliever to help you manage the pain if any.
  3. Antibiotics: If you do not know feeter even after 2-3 days, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics for severe cases.
  4. Drainage: If your child has an ear infection that keeps coming back or causes serious complications, the doctor might perform a myringotomy. The doctor creates a small hole in the eardrum to drain fluids such as pus and blood. A tube is then placed into the eardrum to balance air pressure.

Other than the medical ear infection treatment, some lifestyle changes can help in preventing ear infections:-

  1. Wash your hands for roughly 20 seconds with soap and clean running water to reduce the spread of germs and infections
  2. Avoid smoking in close spaces or near your child
  3. Breastfeed your infants
  4. Avoid overly crowded areas to protect your ears from noise
  5. Since ear pain can be occasionally related to a sore throat, gargle more often with warm water to fight infections
  6. Stay up-to-date on vaccines and immunizations

 

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Updated on : 11 July 2023

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational and learning purposes only. It doesn't cover every medical condition and might not be relevant to your personal situation. This information isn't medical advice, isn't meant for diagnosing any condition, and shouldn't replace talking to a certified medical or healthcare professional.

Reviewer

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

Dr. Aman Priya Khanna

MBBS, DNB General Surgery, Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery, FIAGES

12 Years Experience

Dr Aman Priya Khanna is a well-known General Surgeon, Proctologist and Bariatric Surgeon currently associated with HealthFort Clinic, Health First Multispecialty Clinic in Delhi. He has 12 years of experience in General Surgery and worke...View More

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