Ear infections usually develop from a cold or other viral infection in the inner ear with mucus. Ear infections are more common in children but can also affect adults. GPs can treat ear infections using antibiotics. However, severe or prolonged cases of ear infection may require a referral to an ENT consultant for further treatment.
The symptoms of ear infections in adults include:
The space behind the ear drum, in the middle of the air, is filled with air. This space connects the ear with the throat and contains three small bones responsible for conducting sound from the eardrum to the inner air.
When you have a common cold or a similar infection, the space gets filled with pus or fluid and becomes inflamed, causing swelling that prevents draining. The fluid accumulation causes germs to get trapped in the space and may lead to an ear infection.
An ear infection may also result from swimming, allergies, inserting cotton buds into the ear, or treatment for clearing ear wax and eczema.
Ear infections can affect the outer, middle and inner ear, with varying symptoms depending on the part of the ear with the infection.
The symptoms of inner ear infections are:
In some cases, an inner ear infection is an inflammation of the tissue in the area. A problem with the inner ear may indicate a more serious health condition like meningitis.
The symptoms of middle ear infections are:
A middle ear infection is also known as Otis media. It results from fluid trapped behind the eardrum, causing a bulge and pain.
The symptoms of outer ear infection include:
An outer ear infection is also known as Otis externa. The outer ear is the part between the ear lobe and the eardrum.
The treatment for an ear infection usually depends on the cause and certain factors.
An outer ear infection usually requires clearing the ear canal to remove debris and pus before administering ear drops. If the swelling is too much, the doctor may insert a wick to administer the eardrops. Taking oral antibiotics may not be necessary.
A middle ear infection will likely need oral antibiotics and draining under anaesthetic.
Infections in the inner ear are mostly from a viral infection and can resolve immediately but may take a few weeks.