What Are the Basics of Ear Infection?

What is ear infection?

Ear infection means inflammation and fluid buildup in your ear, it occurs when a bacterial or viral infection affects the parts of the ear that locates just behind the eardrum.

Ear infections can be acute or chronic. Acute ear infection is painful but has short duration. However, chronic ear infection can cause permanent damage to the middle and inner ear.


What are the types of ear infection?

There are three common types of ear infection:

  • Otitis media: It is a type of ear infection or inflammation in the middle ear, and it is the most common type of ear infections.
  • Otitis externa: It is also called outer ear infection or swimmer’s ear.
  • Otitis interna: It is also called inner ear infection or labyrinthitis.

Otitis media can also be divided into two main types:

  • Acute otitis media (AOM): This means that parts of the ear are infected and swollen, and fluid and mucus are trapped inside the ear. AOM can be painful.
  • Otitis media effusion (OME): This means fluid and mucus stay trapped in the ear after the infection is over. OME can affect hearing.

What causes ear infection?

Ear infection occurs when small tubes running from each ear directly to the back of the throat which are called eustachian tubes become swollen or blocked.

The followings are some of the major causes of ear infection:

  • Colds
  • Allergies
  • Smoking or exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Sinus infections
  • Changes in air pressure
  • Excess mucus
  • Infected or swollen adenoids
  • Climate changes
  • Pacifier use


What are the symptoms of ear infection?

The common symptoms of ear infections include:

  • Fussiness in young infants
  • Pus-like ear drainage
  • A feeling of pressure inside the ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Mild pain or discomfort inside the ear
  • A perforation in the eardrum
  • A bulging or collapsed eardrum

How to diagnose ear infection?

If you have the symptoms listed above, please head for hospitals, the doctors may take a sample of the fluid inside your ear to test whether certain types of bacteria are present in your ear.

Besides it, computed tomography (CT) scan may also be suggested to determine whether the infections have spread beyond the middle ear.

Another test method is hearing test, it is advisable for people who are suffering from chronic ear infections.

How to treat ear infection?

The treatments for ear infection vary from type to type. For mild cases of ear infection, there are several ways that can effectively relieve the symptoms:

  • Apply a warm cloth to the affected ear.
  • Use OTC (over-the-counter) or prescription ear drops to relieve pain.
  • Take OTC pain medication such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • Take OTC decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed).

For severe cases of ear infection, especially the chronic ear infection:

  • Take prescribed antibiotics as required.
  • Surgery: It is advisable if the ear infection can’t be eliminated with the usual medical treatments.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.