Ear Infections

Ear infections refer to an inflammation of the outer, middle or inner ear that often accompany a bacterial infection in one of these parts. Though ear infections can affect any age group, children are more likely than adults to get them. Ear infections often clear up on their own, but they can persist and require medical attention.

The most common type of ear infection is a middle ear infection. This is common in infants and young children and usually occur after a cold or flu. Symptoms include diminished hearing, fever, loss of balance and fluid draining from the ear. An infection can cause fluid to buildup in the middle ear, which can be painful. If you notice symptoms of a middle ear infection in your child, call you doctor. Ear infections that do not resolve themselves need to be treated by a physician.

Swimmer’s ear is another common type of ear infection. It is an infection of the outer ear resulting from inflammation, irritation or infection. Swimmer’s ear is caused when moisture gets trapped in the ear canal after bathing, swimming or spending time in moist environments. This allows bacteria to grow and cause an infection. Symptoms include fluid drainage, fever, decreased hearing, feeling like the ear is blocked and intense pain. Swimmer’s ear needs to be diagnosed and treated by a doctor to reduce pain and stop the infection from spreading further.

If you or someone you care for is experiencing symptoms of an ear infection, contact our office at (503) 257-3204 to schedule an appointment.

Swimmer’s Ear: Overview

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Middle Ear Infection: Overview

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Middle Ear Infection: Symptoms

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Middle Ear Infection: Treatment Overview

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What is Otitis Media?

Otitis media means inflammation of the middle ear. The inflammation can occur as a result of a viral cold, upper respiratory infection or allergy. It can occur in one or both ears. Ear infections are the most frequent diagnosis recorded for children who visit physicians for illness. It is also the most common cause of hearing loss in children.

Although ear infections are most common in young children, it can also affect adults. It occurs most commonly in the winter and early spring months.

A healthy middle ear contains air at the same atmospheric pressure as outside of the ear, allowing free vibration. Air enters the middle ear through the narrow eustachian tube that connects the back of the nose to the ear. When you yawn and hear a pop, your eustachian tube has just sent a tiny air bubble to your middle ear to equalize the air pressure.

What Causes Ear Infections (Otitis Media)?

Blockage of the eustachian tube during a cold, allergy, or upper respiratory infection and the presence of bacteria or viruses lead to the accumulation of fluid (a build-up of pus and mucus) behind the eardrum. This is called acute otitis media. The buildup of pressurized pus in the middle ear causes earache, swelling, and redness. Since the eardrum cannot vibrate properly, you or your child may have hearing problems.

Sometimes the eardrum ruptures, and pus drains out of the ear. But more commonly, the pus and mucus remain in the middle ear due to the swollen and inflamed eustachian tube. This is called middle ear effusion or serous otitis media. Often after the acute infection has passed, the effusion remains and becomes chronic, lasting for weeks, months, or even years. This condition makes one subject to frequent recurrences of the acute infection and may cause difficulty in hearing.

What Are Ear Infection Symptoms?

In infants and toddlers look for:

  • pulling or scratching at the ear, especially if accompanied by the following
  • hearing problems
  • crying, irritability, trouble sleeping
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • ear drainage

In young children, adolescents, and adults look for:

  • earache
  • feeling of fullness or pressure
  • hearing problems
  • dizziness, loss of balance
  • nausea, vomiting
  • ear drainage
  • fever

Signs of persistent middle ear fluid:

  • Delayed speech and language
  • Poor articulation, often leaving off the beginning and end of the word
  • Hearing loss, not responding appropriately to sound
  • Tugging at ears
  • Crying more than usual
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Balance difficulties
  • Ear drainage

The important first step is examination and making a correct diagnosis of the problem, then an appropriate treatment plan can be made. Every situation is different.

Ear Infection Treatment Options include:

  • Watch and Wait
  • Antibiotics
  • Ear tube placement
  • Allergy treatment

Rikki Green, AuD is our Doctor of Audiology trained audiologist.

Ear Tubes: Overview

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Ear Tubes: Post-Op

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We provide full service pediatric and adult audiology testing including:

  • Audiograms
  • Tympanograms
    • Measures ear drum movement to assess for middle ear negative pressure / fluid
  • Otoacoustic Emission Testing
    • This tests the function of the outer hair cells in the inner ear
    • This test is very helpful in young children when audiograms may not be possible

If you have ear infection problems, please call 503-257-3204 or request a visit online with us.

References:

American Academy of Otolaryngology−Head and Neck Surgery; One Prince St., Alexandria, VA 22314-3357, 1-703-836-4444. 2014 AAO-HNS/AAO-HNSF