Little Known Causes of Ear Infections

Little Known Causes of Ear Infections

Our ears are a valuable organ that helps us assess our environment, communicate with others, and maintain our equilibrium, making standing and walking a far easier task. To perform these necessary functions, this small but complex organ is divided into three main parts: the outer, middle, and inner ear, which all work to take in sound and transmit the signals to your brain to help determine its type, source, and possible distance from you.

There are many problems that can affect your hearing and balance, and ear infections are a common illness that can come from several sources, including some causes you may not be familiar with. Let’s have a look at the common types of ear infections most of us know, the lesser-known factors that can lead to them, and what your options are for treatment.

If you live in the Kissimmee or Orlando, Florida, area and you’re struggling with the signs of an ear infection, Dr. Wade Han, Dr. Elvira Livigni De Armas, and their skilled team at Florida Ear, Nose, Throat, & Facial Plastic Surgery Center can help.

Common types of ear infection

Acute or chronic infections often occur in the middle ear in the form of either acute otitis media or otitis media with effusion.  The first type is a viral or bacterial condition that results from upper respiratory conditions, strep throat, laryngitis, and tonsillitis, though it can develop without these other problems. The second is marked by the presence of noninfectious fluid that can stick around for weeks and affects both children and adults.

Acute otitis media is the most common of the two globally and frequently affects children under two years old. This can be due to different factors, like immune system deficiencies at that age, being around infected children in places like daycare, bottle feeding in a horizontal position, and sucking on pacifiers. Anatomical differences in growing children also play a role as your Eustachian tubes (located in your middle ear) tend to be shorter at this time.

Lesser known causes

There are also several less common types of ear infections that target different parts of the ear, including:

Inner ear infections (otitis interna)

Vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis are problems that affect the fluid-filled sacs or the vestibular nerve in your inner ear and lead to hearing changes, dizziness, vertigo, and balance issues. 

Outer ear problems (otitis externa) 

This is often referred to as swimmer’s ear and is a bacterial infection that can affect people of any age and occurs in the outside ear canal. It can also occur due to repeated exposure to water inflaming the tissue in the ear canal.

Fungal ear infection

Also known as otomycosis, this often affects the ear canal in your outer ear, and funguses like Aspergillus and Candida spread in warmer temperatures. It can also infect the middle ear and happens after having been in the water for things like SCUBA diving, swimming, water skiing, or other watersports.

Treatment options

Methods of treatment will depend on the type and cause of your specific infection and range from mild home care options to surgical options. If your problem is mild, applying a warm cloth to the affected ear can help while taking over-the-counter pain relievers, ear drops, and decongestants. Antibiotics and antifungals can help with chronic issues or specific types of infections, such as oral medications, creams, or ear drops.

Surgeries to drain ears and relieve pain can help when other methods fail, and either the hole heals on its own or is surgically closed.

Infections can affect any part of your ear; regardless of what causes it, if you’re struggling, make an appointment with Dr. Han or Dr. Livigni De Armas at Florida Ear Nose Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery Center today.

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