Ear Infections: Types and Causes

Ear infections are caused by viruses and/or bacteria. They occur when the middle ear becomes build up with fluid and can result from upper respiratory infections, such as sinus infections, excess mucus, air pressure changes, smoking, or allergies.

Ear Infections

Common symptoms that Vancouver physician, Ali Ghahary, will see in patients with ear infections, include: discomfort and/or a feeling of pressure inside the ear, hearing difficulty, and pus. Young infants with ear infections may be more irritable than usual.

There are various types of ear infections, with Otitis Media being the most common. This is an infection of the middle ear and typically occurs in infants and young children. OM infections can cause pain, fever, and redness of the eardrum. Most OM ear infections are viral and often go away on their own. However, if they persist or worsen, antibiotics may be required. It some cases, Otitis Media infections can be chronic. If fluid is seen in the ear for more than 6 weeks, tubes may be necessary to help the ears drain properly. For more information on ear infections in children, click here.

Otitis Externa, also known as “swimmer’s ear” or an outer ear infection, is more common during summer months. It can be the result of frequent swimming and not keeping the ears dry. Typically, it’s easily treatable with ear drops and taking precautions to keep the ears from getting wet.

Mastoiditis, a bacterial infection of the ear, affects the bone located behind the ear. It is usually the result of otitis media spreading due to not being treated. Mastoiditis can be severe and lead to meningitis, brain injury, blood poisoning or even deafness if left untreated.

Eardrums can also rupture. This can occur as a result of having a previous ear infection, by noise or injury. A rupture eardrum will typically heal within a few weeks, but can cause temporary (and in certain cases, permanent) problems with hearing.

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