Ear Infection

The inflammation caused as a result of an infection of the middle ear is commonly known as an ear infection. Although there are many types of ear infections depending on the way it is affected, the most common of all is called the “Otisis Media”.


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Types of Ear Infections

There are basically two types of ear infections namely; Acute and Chronic Ear Infections. An acute ear infection is described as a painful but short-lived infection. On the other hand, chronic infections are long term and can even cause permanent damage to the functioning of the ear. The infection is commonly found among infants and children and is less common among adults.


Symptoms of an Ear Infection

1. For acute ear infection:

A person having an acute ear infection shows the following symptoms:

  • Acute ear pain
  • Feeling of general illness
  • Vomiting and diarrhea and
  • Hearing loss in the affected ear

2. For chronic ear infection:

The chronic stage,better known in medical terms as “Suppurative chronic otitis”, has more severe symptoms and can lead to potentially dangerous conditions such as:

  • Air bubbles forming within the middle ear
  • Fluids draining from the eardrum
  • A hole or perforation formed in the eardrum
  • The eardrum bulges out or pulls back inward

Certain medical tests can also be carried out to confirm an ear infection:

  • An Otoscopic test to check the working and the color changes of the ear drum.
  • The audiogram test can analyze the hearing ability of a person in case it has been affected by the infection.


Complications Involved in Ear Infections

Acute ear infections, if left untreated, could lead to certain unexpected complications like:

  • Ruptured eardrums
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Mastoiditis
  • Brain infections like meningitis
  • Delay in speech or language development
  • Permanent hear loss due to recurring ear infections

The complications that could arise from untreated chronic infections are much more severe in nature and could lead to permanent damages. Some of the complications involved are:

  • Cyst formation in the middle ear
  • Hardening of the tissues in the middle ear
  • Wearing of the bones that aid in hearing
  • Paralysis of the face
  • Inflammation in or around the brain
  • Partial or complete loss of hearing
  • Delay in speech or language development


Causes of Ear Infections

Ear infections are caused when the Eustachian tube, a tube that runs from the middle of both the ears to the back of the throat, gets clogged causing certain fluids to get trapped within the ear, ultimately leading to an infection.

Ear infection is common among infants since their Eustachian tubes are much smaller compared to adults and clogging can easily happen during that age. Other reasons leading to an ear infection maybe because of a perforation in the ear due to a birth defect, result of a trauma or foreign object in the ear, an effect of a slap or due to a large explosion.

The infection is not contagious in nature. Usually, the main reasons behind the clogging of the Eustachian tube that leads to ear infections are:

  • The presence of allergens
  • Infection due to cold
  • Excess of mucous and saliva during teeth formation
  • Tobacco smoking and other similar irritants

However there are a number of risk factors that are known to speed up the infection process and some of them are as follows:

  • Living in cold conditions
  • Extreme exposure to smoke
  • Genetic factors (hereditary)
  • Not being breastfed
  • Recent illness that may have reduced the resistance of the body to other infections


Treatment for Ear Infections

Ear infections usually do not require any treatment and the symptoms usually subside gradually within some weeks. Still during chronic conditions or in case if the condition of the patient worsens then urgent medical attention will be required.

If symptoms in children, especially under 2 years of age, persist for more than 24 hours  or if they appear sick, antibiotics, ear drops and other over-the-counter medications may be prescribed. If conditions have not improved over 24 – 48 hours, doctors may recommend a surgery to be conducted.