Ear infections are very common among adults and children. They can be diagnosed as a viral or bacterial infection and can cause a lot of discomfort that is very disruptive. Treating an ear infection will depend on the type of ear infection and your own individual health. It’s always a good idea to see a medical professional if you’re concerned, as ear infections can become chronic and have consequences, such as hearing loss.
What is an ear infection?
An ear infection will usually occur when a bacterial or viral infection affects the middle ear. If that happens it puts pressure on the eustachian tube, which is a connecting passage between the throat and the ear. The eustachian tube can fill up with mucus and will not work properly. It’s the pressure on the eustachian tube that tends to cause the pain that we associate with an ear infection.
How is an ear infection diagnosed?
Your doctor will usually use a scope to look inside your ear for signs of an infection. If the eardrum looks red and swollen then this is a strong indicator of an ear infection. A ruptured eardrum can also be a sign of an ear infection, as well as the presence of fluid in the ear.
What are the symptoms of an ear infection?
The main symptom for most of us is pain inside the ear. You may also experience a raised temperature and a feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear, as well as an itching sensation around the ear. Other symptoms may include difficulty hearing and noticing discharge running out of the ear, as well as generally feeling unwell, for example experiencing a headache and feeling - or being - sick. In children, ear infections can be difficult to identify but children will often pull or rub at their ears and generally be restless. They may also lose their balance and not react to sounds.
Treating an ear infection
Especially in children, it’s always worth seeking treatment for an ear infection to include the unnecessary complications that can result from this, such as permanent hearing loss and ongoing pain. Viral ear infections are usually treated with a combination of over the counter pain medication to manage discomfort and plenty of rest and fluids. They will usually clear up in around a week. If the ear infection is bacterial then antibiotics may be prescribed to help clear it up.
Chronic and recurring ear infections
For some people, ear infections are not a one off but something that they experience on an ongoing basis. A chronic ear infection is one that lasts for six weeks or more. Where this is happening, an ear, nose and throat specialist can help to identify the cause of the ear infection, as well as the best way to start treating it to help prevent further episodes.
Ear infections are something that we all experience - you may need to see a specialist depending on the circumstances.
Harley Street is the UK's foremost private medical centre which is dedicated to providing high-quality care for your ear, nose, throat, head & neck, and balance-related disorders. Find out more information on how Harley Street ENT can help you with any ear problems that you may have.