How and where can an ear infection happen?

Cross Timbers ENT helps numerous patients with ear infections. Children’s ear canals are smaller than adults, which makes them a higher risk for infection. And although they tend to have more ear infections than adults, everyone is susceptible. Patients usually find their outer ear is the most common place infections occur. Swimmers ear alone accounts for 2.4 million healthcare visits in the United States.
So, how and where can an ear infection happen? Your ear is made up of three sections: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. While most ear pain resolves itself in a matter of days, you should get an examination to understand the type of infection, prevent it from spreading and obtain treatment to help alleviate the pain.

Outer Ear Infection (Otitis Externa)

Also known as Swimmer’s Ear, outer ear infections result from an inflammation, often bacterial, in the outer ear. Generally, they happen when water, sand or dirt gets into the ear canal. Moisture in the air or swimming makes the ear more susceptible to this type of ear infection. The use of headphones, a hearing aid, skin abrasions or even irritation from hair products may contribute to outer ear infections as well.

Symptoms of an outer ear infection may include:
• swelling
• redness
• heat
• pain or discomfort in the ear
• pus discharge
• itching
• excessive fluid drainage
• muffled or diminished hearing

Cross Timbers ENT recommends that no one take an ear infection lightly. Complications are possible from untreated otitis externa, which may develop into more serious conditions such as hearing loss, recurring ear infections and bone and cartilage damage. To reduce pain and prevent other long-term effects on the ear, be sure to see one of our physicians.

Typically, your Cross Timbers specialist will prescribe ear drops to help eliminate the harmful bacterial growth. In more severe cases, your specialist may also prescribe an antibiotic and pain medication. Most outer ear infections resolve in seven to 10 days.

Middle Ear Infection (Otitis Media)

Middle ear infections can be caused by either bacterial or viral infection. These infections may be triggered by airborne or foodborne allergies, infections elsewhere in the body, nutritional deficiencies or a blocked Eustachian tube.

Symptoms of middle ear infections may include:
• ear pain
• irritability
• difficulty sleeping
• tugging or pulling at the ears
• fever
• yellow, clear, or bloody discharge from the ears
• loss of balance
• problems hearing
• nausea and vomiting
• diarrhea
• decreased appetite
• congestion

In chronic cases, a thick, glue-like fluid may be discharged from the middle ear. Treatment is contingent on the cause of the infection and ranges from analgesic ear drops, medications to the surgical insertion of a tube to drain fluid from the middle ear or an adenoidectomy.

Inner Ear Infection (Otitis Interna)

Also known as labyrinthitis, inner ear infections are most commonly caused by other infections in the body, particularly sinus, throat or tooth infections.

Symptoms of inner ear infection may include:
• mild pain or discomfort inside the ear
• a feeling of pressure inside the ear
• loss of balance
• dizziness
• fever
• vomiting
• pus-like ear drainage
• hearing loss
• tinnitus

Cross Timbers recommends you always seek medical attention if you think you may have an inner ear infection. Ear infections can be very painful and sometimes serious. Cross Timbers otolaryngologists can help diagnose and treat ear infections giving you or your child the much needed pain relief. Please contact one of our two locations now to set up an appointment.