One of the most common problems of cold is an ear infection. They are much more common in young children, but can occur in adults also. Although most ear infections can be treated, with or without antibiotics, consistent infections can at times lead to hearing loss.
The most common symptom is pain. Children greatly, but not always, run a fever with ear infections
- Crying more than normal.
- Ear drainage.
Categories / Types
There are three main types of acute ear infections, adults can develop – acute middle ear infections, and outer ear infections. Although outer ear infections (otitis externa) are usually common in adults, Middle ear infections (otitis media) are not rare.
1. Otitis Externa (Swimmer’s Ear) in Adults
Outer ear infections are also called swimmer’s ear because it is common among swimmers. It usually occurs when contaminated water enters the outer ear allowing germs to grow and thrive in warm, moist conditions.
Symptoms of swimmer’s ear include:
- ear redness
- itchiness inside the ear
- flaking of the skin over the ear
- drainage from the ear which may be pus
- pain when moving the head or touching the ear
Signs and symptoms
Pain is the main grievance and the symptom directly related to the acute external otitis .Unlike other infective forms in the ear, the acute external otitis pain is intensified when the outer ear is moved or drawn slightly.
The symptoms of external otitis tempts people to try to clean out the ear canal with buds and sticks.Self cleaning will lead to extra battering of skin and trauma; hence fast deterioration of the condition results.So people should not put anything into the ear, however tempted they are.
Bathing in murky water is a common cause for swimmer’s ear, yet it is similarly possible to contract swimmer’s ear from water trapped in the ear canal after a bath, mostly in a humid temperature.
2. Chronic Ear Infection
Chronic ear infection is middle ear inflammation or infection that lasts or keep coming back, and causes enduring or permanent ear damage.
Ear infections are common in children as they have short and wide Eustachian tubes, which are a lot more wide and narrow than those of adults. This makes it easy for bacteria or viruses to reach the middle ear from the nose or throat and cause infection.
People of every age may develop chronic ear infections which can be due to:
- Ear trauma or injury
- Large or swollen adenoids
- Many acute ear infections
- Ear pain or discomfort
- Pus drainage from ear
- Hearing impairment
3. Otitis Media (Middle Ear) Infections in Adults
Middle ear infections are most common in children owing to the structural difference in the length and width of the Eustachian tube, the tube that runs from the ear to the area behind the throat. While fluid or bacteria become stuck inside the ear, an infection can ensue. Adults who have recurrent middle ear infections should see an ENT doctor as the neighbouring nose or throat might be infected which gets transmitted through the Eustachian tube to the middle ear.
- Ear discomfort.
- Ear drainage (happens from a ruptured ear drum).
- A sensation of fullness or ear pressure.
- Hearing loss.
- Balance difficulties (vertigo).
Children catch ear infections more commonly than any other age group and they normally happen in the first two to four years of life. This is owing to many factors. Young children have short Eustachian tubes, which let bacteria and viruses to find their way in, causing infections.
Who Is Most Affected:
Children who are exposed to cigarette smoke, those that are bottle fed,and those who attend daycare centres have higher rates of ear infections.
Otitis media similarly happens a lot in children who have history of recurrent ear infections especially in winter, when colds and other respiratory ailments are more common.