The structure of the ear can be broadly divided into three parts; the outer ear or visible part, the middle ear and the inner ear. The middle ear is highly susceptible to bacterial and viral infections. Ear infections can affect infants, children and adults. Ear infections are triggered by the blockage or swelling of tubes within the ear. These tubes are known as eustachian tubes.
This may be caused by:
- Sinus infections
- Cold or flu
- Excessive mucus
- Swollen adenoids or an adenoid infection
- Change in air pressure
Symptoms of an ear infection may be noticed in one or both ears. These symptoms vary from person to person. In some cases, they may come and go while in others, they can be experienced for a long stretch of time. In most cases, symptoms of a chronic ear infection are less noticeable as compared to an acute ear infection.
Some of the most common ear infection symptoms are:
- Ear pain: In the case of an ear infection in only one ear, the pain may be mild but if it has affected both ears, the patient can be caused considerable pain in the ears. This pain is usually more severe when the patient is lying down.
- Discharge of pus from the ears: Ear infections that affect the eardrum can cause fluid or pus to flow out of the ears. In some cases, there may also be a little bleeding. Do not plug the ears to keep this discharge from flowing as it can aggravate the infection further.
- Loss of hearing: A blockage in the middle ear can make sounds appear muffled. This can temporarily affect hearing. It is usually relieved when the infection is cured.
- Sensation of pressure in the ear canal: The buildup of fluid within the ear canal can make it feel full and create a sense of pressure. If the infection affects only one ear, this pressure can cause a sense of dis-balance.
- Fussiness in young infants: Ear infections can be very painful and uncomfortable for young infants. It can make it difficult for them to sleep, make them cranky and more irritable than usual.
- Fever: Ear infections can cause a fever that is often higher than 100 degrees. If it crosses 102 degrees, a doctor must be consulted immediately.
- Loss of balance: The ears not only help us hear but also influence our sense of balance. A middle ear infection can cause dizziness, vertigo and nausea.