What are Ear Infections?
Ear infections are when the middle ear (the area just behind the eardrum) become infected from a bacteria or virus. They are most common amongst children.
Ear infections can be acute or chronic.
Acute ear infections tend to clear up on their own, whereas chronic or persistent ear infections require medical intervention, or permanent hearing damage could occur.
Common ear infection symptoms include:
- Ear pain or discomfort
- Fluid drainage from the ear
- Trouble or loss of hearing
In addition to those symptoms, children may also show:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
Ear infections are usually caused by viral or bacterial infections of the middle ear. These infections cause the eustachian tubes, which run from the ear to the throat, to become swollen.
This swelling causes the tubes to become blocked, causing fluids to buildup, which results in the pain and fluid drainage that often accompany ear infections.
Other common causes of ear infections include:
- Colds or flu
- Poor air quality
- Changes in air pressure
Ear infections are most common in children because their eustachian tubes are smaller and narrower than adults.
Other common risk factors for ear infections include:
- Exposure to cigarette smoke or air pollution
- Colder weather, flu season
- Changes in altitude
Only a doctor can properly diagnose an ear infection. They use a special device to look inside your ear (you may have memory of doctors doing this in the past).
Usually, a visual examination is all they need, but in rare or severe cases, they may require tests like a CT scan.
When to See a Medical Doctor
Ear infections usually go away on their own, but if the symptoms persist or are severe, then seek medical attention. If you have a child experiencing ear infection symptoms, and/or a fever, then seek medical attention as soon as possible.
In either case, a doctor will be able to properly diagnose and treat the ear infection.