The ear is an organ of hearing. Apart from detecting, transmitting and transducing sound to the brain, the ear also helps to maintain our sense of balance. The ear is divided into three (3) major parts which are the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Germs such as bacteria and viruses can get into the ear and cause an infection.
Ear infections are more common in children than in adults. Nonetheless, adults are also susceptible to these infections. Childhood ear infections are often minor and pass quickly. However in adults, they are often signs of a more serious health problem.
TYPES OF EAR INFECTION
Labyrinthitis / Inner ear infection
This is an infection of the inner ear, in which a delicate structure deep inside your ear called the labyrinth, becomes inflamed. This infection affects hearing and balance. A labyrinthitis infection may be caused by a virus or bacteria.
Otitis media / Middle ear infection
This may occur as a result of cold or other respiratory problem. This infection affects one or both ears through the eustachian tubes. The eustachian tubes are connected to the back of the nose and throat and they regulate air pressure inside the ear. When the middle ear is infected, the eustachian tubes get inflammed and swell. As a result, making them unable to drain properly. Inability of these tubes to drain consequently causes a build-up of fluids against the eardrum.
Otitis external / Outer ear infection (swimmer’s ear)
This is also known as outer ear infection. The outer ear is the part of the ear which extends out from the eardrum to the outside of the head. Infection of the outer ear is often characterized with an itchy rash on the ear, tenderness, redness and swelling of the ear. It is often called swimmer’s ear because it consequently begins as a result of water being trapped in the ear after swimming or bathing. The trapped moisture can serve as a breeding ground for bacteria. Outer ear infections can also be caused by injury to the ear canal from foreign objects, such as cotton swabs or fingernails.
The three types of ear infection have similar symptoms. Common symptoms include:
- Ear ache
- Drainage from the ear
- Hearing loss
- Problems with balance or walking
- Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
- Spinning sensation
Over-the-counter and prescription drugs may be used to treat symptoms associated with ear infections. It is however important that you see a doctor immediately you notice any ear issue as this could be a sign of a serious underlying condition.
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