What Are Middle Ear Infections : Humans are blessed with two ears in their bodies. The ear is the organ that provides us with the sense of hearing. The ears provide us with the essential role of communication with the people around us. The two crucial roles which the ear provides us are hearing and balance.
Our ear consists of three main parts, which includes
- Outer or external ear (containing pinna or auricle):This part of the ear directs the sound into the cavity for adequate hearing.
- Middle ear (containing ossicles): The ossicles are three bones (i.e., malleus, incus, and stapes) that vibrate and direct sound to the inner ear. This part is also called the tympanic cavity.
- The inner ear (consisting of the cochlea): It is a hollow bone, spiral in shape. It gathers the sound waves from ossicles and transduces them into electrical impulses, which the brain can interpret as Individual frequencies.
Our ears well perform all these functions under normal circumstances. But sometimes, due to several complexities, the role of the ear can be disturbed, which may lead to an abnormal hearing. Today, we shall briefly talk about some of the causes, treatments, and diagnoses of middle ear infections.
What are middle ear infections?
Medically, middle ear infections are termed otitis media. This infection just started behind the eardrum. More commonly, we can say that a middle ear infection can happen after any condition which can cause drainage from your ear. These conditions are generally allergies, sore throat, or respiratory infections.
Middle ear infections are primarily observed in children as compared to adults. But if this condition starts in adults, it may be a symptom of something serious, which would require some additional tests and diagnosis.
You may suffer from otitis media if you are vulnerable to some of the conditions mentioned below:
- You are a smoker or are exposed to passive smoking.
- Have seasonal flu or allergy symptoms.
- Have a cold or upper respiratory system infection.
Symptoms of middle ear infections
Symptoms of middle ear infections which are commonly observed in adults are listed as:
- Pain in one or both the ears (depending upon the condition of disease in one or both ears)
- Trouble hearing.
- Pain may increase at night or while sleeping.
- Yellow, precise, or bloody fluid drainage from ears.
- A sore throat.
- Nausea and vomiting (seen rarely).
You may also feel a fever of around 100°F up to 104°F (38°C). Rarely, you may feel difficulty in balancing.
These symptoms are generally standard and the same as other conditions. It is necessary to talk to your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you face any such signs.
Causes of Middle ear infections
Several occasions can start middle ear infections. However, these often begin due to prior illness to the respiratory tract, which spreads to your ears. When the eustachian tubes (the tubes serving as a connection between your middle ear and pharynx) are blocked, it gets filled with the fluid, providing a medium for the bacteria (i.e., Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae), causing pain and middle ear infections. The eardrum can also be inflamed and not as sensitive to sound as required.
You may see your healthcare provider which would ask for your medical history and also a physical exam. He may look at your outer ear and eardrum with the help of an otoscope or otomicroscope (the tools which could let your healthcare provider check for the infection). The routine checkup is looking at your eardrum, whether it is moving or not due to hindrance, which could be a symptom of a fluid blocking it.
The medical test which your healthcare provider generally prescribes is tympanometry. The test suggests how your eardrum is working. Your healthcare provider might also use a tuning fork or initiate an audiogram (hearing test).
The treatment provided by your healthcare provider can vary depending upon your infection. However, generally following measures are taken:
- If the infection is due to bacteria, antibiotics are suggested, which could restrict the growth of bacteria.
- Medications are generally used to relieve the pain.
- Nasal steroids are also adopted.
Middle ear infections can interfere with your everyday lifestyle; therefore, these must be treated at the required time to avoid any other complications. An otolaryngologist is a specialist in treating infection and diagnosis regarding your ear, nose, or throat. We have the best team of an otolaryngologist to assure you with ultimate guidance and diagnosis.
Additional Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about middle ear infections:
Some of the additional questions which could arise in one’s mind are answered below for ultimate understanding:
How long does it require for a middle ear infection to clear?
A mild middle ear infection may take one to three weeks to clear up on its own. However, it is complicated by other problems; it may take more time.
Is middle ear infections contagious?
Ear infections, in general, are not contagious and do not spread to one another.
Can ear infections spread to the brain?
Yes, ear infections might spread to your brain, causing several problems such as meningitis.
Can wearing earphones cause ear infections?
Wireless earphones which go directly to your ear are breeding grounds for bacteria, sweat, and dirt. So it can play a part in promoting middle ear infections.
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