An ear infection also referred to as acute otitis media, is a common cause of an earache. The condition is commonly associated with children, and it often causes distress, but it can also affect adults. It is an infection in the middle ear; this is the air-filled space behind the eardrum that has tiny vibrating bones of the ear.
Infections of the ear are the most common reasons for parents visiting pediatricians for their childcare. A majority of antibiotic prescriptions for children are to fight the virus. From the statistics, the cost of treating the illness in the U.S in a year is more than $ 2 billion. It is vital to treat it as it may lead to complications like mastoiditis and meningitis.
Causes of Ear Infection
The leading cause of ear problems is a bacterium or a virus in the middle ear. It results from upper respiratory infections like the cold, which causes inflammation and swelling of the Eustachian tube. When it gets blocked, it traps fluid inside the ear, making it possible for germs to grow and can cause the infection.
The risk factors of ear infections include;
- Age; children of less than two years are more prone to infections because of the size and shape of their Eustachian tubes.
- Daycare centers; where there are many kids, then the children are exposed to germs and are more likely to get infections of the ear than stay at home kids.
- Seasonal factors; the infections usually occur during fall and winter as upper respiratory infections are on the rise as well.
Symptoms of Ear Infections
Infections of the ear are prevalent in children. Adults also get them, but they are more often in kids as their immune system is not built up yet to help fight common bacteria and viruses. However, it may be challenging to recognize the symptoms as they cannot express the discomfort they may be experiencing. These are some of the signs to watch out if you think your baby could be having the infection;
- Irritability, restlessness
- Trouble sleeping
- Ear drainage
- Constant scratching at the ear
- Slow response to sounds
- Crying at night when lying down
- Loss of appetite
Symptoms of ear infection in adults include;
- Vomiting or nausea
- Ear pain
- Ear drainage
- Difficulty in understanding speech
- Dizziness or imbalance
Prevention of ear infections
Since we cannot stop infections on the ear, it is essential to take necessary steps to reduce the risk of developing them. They include:
- Limit exposure to secondhand smoke; Ensure that no one smokes in the house and also try to stay in smoke-free environments.
- Vaccinate yourself and your family; ensure the family is vaccinated yearly against flu and other bacteria to help prevent the infections.
- Breastfeeding; Nursing the baby for one year or more to lessen the risk of infections. If you cannot breastfeed the baby, then bottle feed them in an upright position.
- Good hygiene; Frequent handwashing and use of hand sanitizer are essential for you and your child to reduce the spread of germs and prevent flu or cold. You can also teach children not to share their eating or drinking utensils.
Relationship Between Infections of the Ear and Loss of hearing
Sometimes, a middle ear infection may cause temporary loss of hearing, especially in children. It occurs when the virus blocks any sounds from passing through the ear canal to the inner ear. When voice is blocked, it is known as a conductive hearing loss. One may hear sounds as indistinct. Different types of infections occur in the ear, and they all cause temporary loss of hearing. In rare cases, untreated hearing loss may cause loss of hearing. It is, therefore, vital to know the causes, symptoms, and risks then and then seek medical help. When appropriately treated, the infection clears, and the hearing ability will go back to normal.
The majority of infections of the ear usually heal without treatment, but untreated hearing loss may become severe, which will need special treatment to manage monitor and monitor the pain. The focus should be on pain management for 1-2 days. If the symptoms do not improve, you can use antibiotics to fight it. However, it is essential to consult the child’s doctor before using them. The most common medicine is amoxicillin. For the middle ear infection that causes temporary hearing loss, your doctor may recommend ear tube surgery.
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