Ear infections are nasty, painful conditions that may cause uncomfortable symptoms. Ear infections are most common in children, but adults can also experience ear infections. If you have an ear infection, or multiple infections, an ENT, or Ear, Nose and Throat doctor, can help you.
Wade Han, MD, FACS, and Elvira Livigni-De Armas, AUD, lead the professional team at Florida Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery Center. With locations in Orlando and Kissimmee, Florida, Dr. Han is available to treat patients with ear infections who hail from a variety of locations in the area of both cities.
Ear infections have a variety of causes. Here’s how they occur and why you may be getting them repeatedly.
What keeps happening to my ear?
Ear infections are a common illness, with some 80% of small children experiencing at least one ear infection by the age of 3. Adults also experience ear infections, albeit less frequently. The reason children get ear infections more often is partly due to their age.
Ear infections are a symptom of a compromised Eustachian tube. Within the ear, the Eustachian tube connects your nose to your middle ear, where your eardrum is located. This little path of sensitive tissue is vulnerable to viruses, bacteria, allergens, and environmental pollutants, all of which can irritate the tissues and cause ear infections.
How are these ear infections starting?
In children, the aforementioned Eustachian tube isn’t fully developed. While it is able to stay dilated and wide in a mature person, in a young child it is still forming. Short and unable to remain constantly open, an immature Eustachian tube may be unable to receive the necessary ventilation to remain healthy. As a result, fluid begins to build up, eventually causing an ear infection.
This type of ear infection is a middle-ear infection, or acute otitis media. Pain, fever, and trouble hearing are common symptoms of these types of ear infections. Fluid buildup is one of the most common causes of ear infections, but ear infections can be triggered by upper respiratory infections.
Otitis media with effusion is an ear infection that occurs when another infection has cleared, but some of the fluid is left behind. Mucus builds up with the leftover fluid, causing a “full” feeling in your ear. This type of infection can last for a long time and interfere with your hearing.
Recurrent, or chronic, ear infections are called chronic otitis media with effusion. In this case, an ear infection will begin, clear, and return within a month with all of its symptoms to interfere with your daily life. It can also be difficult for many providers to treat.
Colds and flus are caused by viruses and their symptoms include congestion, fever, sneezing, and coughing. These same viruses can make their way into the middle ear, causing a viral ear infection. Bacterial infections that cause respiratory illnesses may take the same route as a viral infection, causing the middle ear to become inflamed, and produce pus that drains from the ears.
Allergy season is a difficult time for people who are prone to ear infections. The familiar congestion of allergy season can build up in the middle ear, causing a painful infection. Allergic ear infections usually include swelling, drainage, and a sore throat.
Risk factors for ear infections include:
- Being male
- A history of ear infections
- A compromised immune system
- For children, attending daycare, receiving packaged formula, and living with a tobacco smoker
- Cleft palate, and other birth defects
Ear infections aren’t generally considered contagious, but the colds, flus, and bacterial infections that can cause them are, making personal hygiene even more important than it normally is.
What can I do about ear infections?
Left untreated, ear infections can spread to bones in the ear, causing hearing loss, damage to the mechanism in your ear that controls your balance, and other incredibly uncomfortable symptoms. If this happens, surgery will likely be necessary, and Dr. Han will help you prepare for that.
Surprisingly enough, vaccines can help you stay on top of your ear infections. In babies, the pneumococcal vaccine has been proven effective against certain blood diseases, the flu, and ear infections. Other things that help include practicing good hygiene, gently drying your ears after swimming with a cotton swab, and avoiding triggers (like smoke and people with respiratory illness) and keeping up with your allergy medication.
You don’t have to suffer from chronic ear infections. Dr. Han is an experienced professional who can help. It’s possible that you may benefit from a more invasive procedure, but Dr. Han will only know after a complete consultation. Call either of our Florida offices for a consultation or book an appointment with us online.