Middle ear infections will often begin as a result of a common cold or other upper
respiratory infection. The long term malfunction of the eustachian tube
which is designed to keep air in the middle ear space can lead to
chronic ear infections, mainly in infants and young children, but can
also occur in adults. Surgical treatment may be needed when other means
of medical management are not successful in keeping the ear healthy and
For detailed information about ear infections and acute or chronic otitis see below:
Causes and Concerns
Ear infections are not as common in adults as they are in children, but they can still occur. A middle ear infection occurs in the space behind your ear drum. When this space becomes filled with fluid, it can lead to an infection due to viral or bacterial growth. Germs from your nose and throat can become trapped in this space when you are sick and this is what leads to the infection. Also, there is a tube that connects your throat and ear together, called the Eustachian tube. When this tube becomes swollen due to sickness, fluid gets trapped in that space behind your ear drum. Risk factors for ear infections include:
- Persistent or Untreated Allergies
- Frequent Upper Respiratory Infections
- Dysfunctional Eustachian Tubes
- Congenital Health Conditions
Symptoms and Signs
There are a few symptoms associated with an ear infection, and the most common one is an earache. An earache can range anywhere from mild to severe, and it can be intermittent or continuous. You may also experience itching or drainage from the ear when an infection is present. Other symptoms associated with an ear infection include:
- Nausea and/or Vomiting
- Nasal Drainage
- Stuffy Nose
Solutions and Options
To have an ear infection diagnosed, you will need to see Dr. Stark. The doctor will take a look inside your ear to determine whether or not you actually have an infection, as well as to assess the severity of it. The doctor will be able to see if there is any fluid trapped in the space behind the ear drum with a tool called an otoscope. He may also ask the audiologist to perform a test called a Tympanogram.
Ear infections do not typically need special treatment, as those caused by viruses often go away on their own. Over the counter medications such as Tylenol and Advil are recommended for the pain. You can ease the pain associated with an ear infection by placing a warm wash cloth on your ear and letting it rest there. However, some infections are caused by bacteria and require antibiotics. In children, minor surgery is sometimes necessary to heal an ear infection. When someone has recurrent infections, the ear specialist will insert ototubes into the eardrum to drain the fluid.
Ear infections typically last for about 10 to 14 days, but they may heal quicker than that or even last longer than that. If you feel that your ear infection is becoming worse, or the earache is growing in intensity, you should talk to an ear specialist. Our doctors are specifically trained to treat ear infections and other ear-related disorders.
There are ways to prevent an ear infection. Because one major cause for ear infections is smoking or exposure to smoke, you should avoid smoking or being around second hand smoke. Smoke tends to block and clog the tube that connects your throat and ear, and it can cause fluid to build up in the space. Also, make sure to avoid people who are sick, and if you cannot, then limit your exposure. Additionally, always wash your hands after touching door knobs and using the bathroom.
If you suspect you or your child has an ear infection, you should seek medical care to assess the situation and receive treatment. An ear infection will cause pain in both adults and children, and it can make your baby irritable and fussy. Consult Dr. Stark today for an evaluation.
Additional Reading: http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ear-infection/ear-infections-topic-overview