Sore ears are just sore ears, right? Well, not exactly. Sore ears can be quite mild, but they can also affect you significantly if they are not treated properly. You really do need to avoid recurring ear infections in adults.
An ear infection can either be acute or chronic. Acute infection occurs quickly and usually lasts for a relatively short time. A chronic ear infection, on the other hand, is one that does not get better on its own. The first step to treating these infections is avoidance, so you need to understand what causes recurrent ear infections.
You can develop an infection in any part of your ear: outer, middle and inner.
The outer ear is the first canal of your ear, leading to the eardrum. The middle ear is just inside the eardrum and the inner ear is the site where the delicate workings of the ear are located.
The symptoms of an outer ear infection are redness and pain around the entrance to the ear. It may be swollen and tender to the touch. The pain can also spread into the ear, which may also be itchy. You may also notice that your ear feels full, or that there is a discharge from your ear, especially at night.
Commonly, this type of earache in adults can be a result of what we know as swimmer’s ear. It occurs when water gets trapped in the canal leading into the ear. It can be uncomfortable and even sore, but is not dangerous in any way and can be treated quite easily, usually with drops.
If the water that is trapped is infected in any way, then bacteria can cause an infection. This is unlikely if you swim in a chlorinated pool or the sea and the swimmer’s ear should be quite short-lived. If you have been swimming in a pond, or river, or lake, then there may be bacteria in the water. You should also try to avoid getting your ears wet in the bath, because the water may contain contaminants.
An outer ear infection is usually treated with antibiotics. However, if it is caused by a fungus and is not bacteria, the treatment is antifungal ear drops.
Your middle ear lies beyond the eardrum and infection usually involves an inflammation of the eardrum. The symptoms include pain, which is usually mild, but which can develop into more severe pain, a continuous, fairly mild fever and a discharge from the ear, which will usually be an opaque liquid that resembles pus.
If a middle ear infection is untreated, then it can eventually lead to a loss of hearing.
The middle ear is linked to the eyes, mouth and nasal passages by the Eustachian Tube, along which infection can travel. Chronic sinusitis can also cause a middle ear infection, so can a viral infection in the nose, sinus, or mouth.
Some middle ear infections can clear up on their own, but most of them will need antibiotics. If there are recurring ear infections in adults, then surgery can be an option. The simplest procedure is for a doctor to insert small tubes into the eardrum to release the pressure of the liquid behind it, which will reduce the swelling.
It’s pretty clear that ears are for hearing, but don’t forget that they are also about balance. In fact, the biology of the inner ear is central to the way your body senses balance. An inner ear infection is usually called labyrinthitis and is usually caused by a virus or bacteria. The symptoms include pain, dizziness and issues with balance. These infections are mostly treated with antibiotics.
Treating an ear infection can be as simple as making yourself comfortable by taking painkillers and possibly covering the ear with a warm cloth. In recurring ear infections in adults, it is most likely that you will need some medication like antibiotics, antivirals, or steroids.
If you don’t know what causes recurrent ear infections, don’t disregard mild infections, because they may become worse. Rather err on the side of caution and consult a doctor.