Ear Infections: Types and Causes

Woman in pain, touching ear

The ears play an important role in people’s everyday lives. Their primary function is to receive sound and transmit it to the brain for transduction. The ears also impact the sense of balance. It is, therefore, important to take care of them to avoid ear problems and infections.

The ear is divided into three parts—outer, middle, and inner. Ear infections usually occur in the middle and outer parts. Infections may be viral or bacterial, according to ENT specialists from Peak ENT and Voice Center.

Middle Ear Infection

Middle ear infections or otitis media are usually caused by fluid build-up in the space behind the eardrum. Inflammation of the nasal passages when you have an allergy, a cold, or flu prevents the fluid from draining properly. This causes the area to swell, become painful, and feel full. Otitis media may also cause temporary hearing problems and fever.

Outer Ear Infection

An infection in the outer ear, also called otitis externa, is usually caused by bacteria. Normally, the infection begins as a rash, which later becomes inflamed, swollen, and painful. Otitis media may also be caused by fluid build-up behind the eardrum, which irritates the lining of the ear and causes tenderness, swelling, and pain as a result of scratching.

Inner Ear Infection

In most cases, a problem in the inner ear is not caused by an infection but inflammation. An inner ear problem may also be an indicator of an underlying condition such as meningitis.

When to See a Doctor

The symptoms of ear infections often go away on their own in a couple of days. If not, then you should see your doctor for a physical examination using an otoscope. Certain tests may be required as well based on your symptoms. It is a must to see an ENT specialist if an ear infection is associated with fever, severe pain, and fluid discharge.

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A severe ear infection could lead to complications like hearing loss, facial nerve paralysis, and mastoiditis. Always take care of your ears and see a doctor for proper treatment of infections.