What Causes Inner Ear Infections
Infections can happen in any part of the ear, including the inner section. When the inner ear is infected, the problem is sometimes known as labyrinthitis.
The infection can be caused by a virus or bacteria, which usually reach the inner ear after affecting another part of your body.
- Viral Infections: Lots of different viruses can affect the inner ear, including the common cold and flu. The infection usually spread to the inner ear from other parts of the body , so you may start to develop symptoms related to your inner ear after noticing cold-like symptoms. Antibiotics cant help with this type of infection.
- Bacterial Infections: Bacterial infections are less common, especially in adults, but they can happen. Bacteria are more likely to get into the inner ear if the membranes separating it from the inner ear are broken, which might happen if you have a middle ear infection. If the infection is caused by bacteria then taking antibiotics might help.
In some cases, the problem that we call an inner ear infection isnt actually an infection at all. Labyrinthitis can happen when the inner ear becomes inflamed for other reasons, for example if you have an autoimmune condition that causes your immune system to mistakenly attack the tissue. You might need to get treatment for this underlying condition in order to prevent the inner ear problems from returning.
Where Can I Find Additional Information About Ear Infections
The NIDCD maintains a directory of organizations that provide information on the normal and disordered processes of hearing, balance, smell, taste, voice, speech, and language.
Use the following keywords to help you search for organizations that can answer questions and provide printed or electronic information on ear infections:
Causes Of Outer Ear Infection
Outer ear infections are usually caused by bacteria or fungi. But anything that irritates the skin of your ear canal or causes an allergic reaction can also cause inflammation.
Certain things may make you more likely to get an outer ear infection.
- Damage to your ear canal from a cotton bud, your fingernail or any other object.
- A build-up of earwax or accidently pushing earwax into your ear when cleaning it.
- Having too little earwax, often from too much cleaning. Some earwax is healthy, as it protects the lining of your ear canal from dirt and dust and infections.
- Using hearing aids or earplugs these can damage or irritate your ear canal or introduce bacteria.
- Swimming, especially in polluted water because this may introduce bacteria into your ear.
- Living in a hot, humid climate ear infection is often known as tropical ear.
- Having allergies or being sensitive to products like hairsprays and hair dyes these can irritate your ear canal.
- Having a narrow ear canal, which means that water can become trapped and bacteria are more likely to grow.
- Having a skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis broken skin is more likely to become inflamed.
- Having a condition that affects your immune system for example, HIV/AIDS.
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When Should You See A Doctor For An Ear Infection
You dont want to sit with ear pain for long. If youve tried at-home remedies, youre not getting relief, or your symptoms have gotten worse, Dr. Kozin says its time to talk to your doctor immediately. Youll also definitely want to see someone if you have drainage from your ear, hearing loss, ringing in your ears, or dizziness, he says.
Can Ear Infections Be Prevented
Some lifestyle choices can help protect kids from ear infections:
- Breastfeed infants for at least 6 months to help to prevent the development of early episodes of ear infections. If a baby is bottle-fed, hold the baby at an angle instead of lying the child down with the bottle.
- Prevent exposure to secondhand smoke, which can increase the number and severity of ear infections.
- Parents and kids should wash their hands well and often. This is one of the most important ways to stop the spread of germs that can cause colds and, therefore, ear infections.
- Keep childrens immunizations up to date because certain vaccines can help prevent ear infections.
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Warm Water Bottle Or Warm Compress
As soon as possible apply some heat on the infected ear. This will help to quickly relieve some of the pain and will also prevent microorganism infestation. It is very effective method to cure an ear infection.
- Press a heating pad or warm water bottle against the ear. You can also use a warm compress. you will need to dip a washcloth in the lukewarm water and ring out the excess water, then place the washcloth on the infected ear.
- Keep in mind to not to apply heat to the ear for long periods of time. start with five minutes, remove the heat for a while and then repeat the process as needed.
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Can Tinnitus Be Prevented
Repeated loud noise exposure can be a cause of tinnitus as well as hearing loss. Loud music may cause short term symptoms, but repeated occupational exposure requires less intense sound levels to cause potential hearing damage leading to tinnitus. Minimizing sound exposure, therefore, decreases the risk of developing tinnitus. Sound protection equipment, like acoustic ear-muffs, may be appropriate at work and at home when exposed to loud noises.
A variety of medications may be ototoxic and cause tinnitus. If tinnitus develops while you are taking a medication, stop the medication and discuss other options with your health-care professional.
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Use A Swimming Cap Or Earplugs
Some people are more susceptible to ear infections, and thats why you may want to take some measures if you are one of them. You can start by wearing a swimming cap to prevent water from getting into your ears. You might also want to try putting in earplugs if they feel comfortable in your ears. You can always ask your doctor or physician about any other precautions that you can take.
Complications Associated With A Middle Ear Infection
Complications from middle ear infections are extremely uncommon, but can occur, especially in very young children with a not yet fully developed immune system. These complications include:
- Mastoiditis: When the infection spreads into the bones of the ear. Symptoms include fever, pain, tenderness, headache and a creamy discharge from the ear. This condition is treatable, but seeking medical attention early is important.
- Cholesteatoma: A result of tissue build-up from recurrent instances of infection. If left untreated, the condition can cause serious damage. Treatment typically involves surgery.
- Labyrinthitis: A condition that occurs when an infection in the middle ear spreads to the inner ear. Symptoms include dizziness, hearing loss, vertigo and loss of balance. It is treatable.
- Other complications: Other possible complications include facial paralysis, meningitis and brain abscess, but these conditions are extremely rare.
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What Happens If An Ear Infection Is Left Untreated
Fluid buildup in the ear can be damaging even if theres no infection and may lead to a ruptured eardrum and hearing loss. So, its important to see the doctor if symptoms remain after finishing the antibiotics. Theyll likely want to take a look in your ear and learn more about your symptoms.
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend you see an ear, nose and throat doctor. The ENT doctor may recommend surgery to place small metal or plastic tubes in the ear canal to make it easier for the fluid to drain out. Your doctor may also recommend ear tube surgery for your child if they have recurrent ear infections.
How Can I Prevent An Ear Infection
Remove as many environmental pollutants from your home as you can, including:
- Tobacco smoke
Also, reduce your or your child’s exposure to people with colds, and control allergies.
Taking steps to prevent colds, the flu, and other illnesses can prevent some, but not all, ear infections. Here are some important things to do:
- Be sure everyone in your household, including your children, get the proper vaccines when recommended. That includes flu and pneumococcal vaccines.
- Make hand washing a habit that becomes part of the family’s routine.
- If possible, avoid group care for children, especially during cold and flu season.
Because formula-fed babies are more likely to get ear infections, it is better to breastfeed your infant for the first 6 to 12 months, if possible, to prevent ear infections.
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Gargling Warm Salt Water
Gargle with a warm salt water is another home remedy to get relief from a congested ear caused by an ear infection. Surprising as it may seem, gargling a saline solution to treat a throat infection can actually help clear your ears.
Dr. Dan Brennan on WebMD says that the salt water helps to soothe a sore throat and actually helps to unblock the Eustachian tubes.2
Here is how to use a salt water gargle to get rid of clogged ears and relieve the symptoms of a sore throat:
- Mix one teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water.
- Swish it around your mouth and gargle for 15 to 20 seconds.
- Spit it out.
- Repeat as often as possible until you feel that your ears are no longer clogged.
Gargling with salt and water is also one of the best home remedies for chest congestion and it is also an effective remedy for clearing throat mucus.
Ear Infection Symptoms Treatment
Middle ear infection is a bacterial or viral infection that may cause earache, temporary hearing loss, and fluid discharge. A middle ear infection that does not clear up on its own may require treatment with antibiotics.
Middle ear infections occur mainly in early childhood, although older children and adults also get these kinds of infection. The incidence of acute ear infection in New Zealand children was recently estimated at 27%. A complication associated with middle ear infections is the retention of fluid, causing âglue earâ. Children should always be taken to a doctor if they have earache.
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Tea Tree Oil Combined With Steam Inhalations
If a cold is causing your ears to feel clogged, use a tea tree inhalation to get rid of the infection quickly to relieve the congestion. Combining tea tree oil with a simple steam inhalation technique can naturally relieve blocked ears, cure congestion, sore throat, chest infections, and clear up mucus.
Tea tree oil has amazing healing properties which can help to treat viral and bacterial infections in the respiratory system. You can read about the 75 extraordinary uses for tea tree oil.
The journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews reported that tea tree oil contains powerful natural compounds called terpenoids. These have been proven to have an antimicrobial effect against various infection-causing pathogens. For example, tea tree oil can effectively kill off the Streptococcus pyogenes strain of bacteria which is responsible for strep throat.3
How to do it
- Pour boiling water in a bowl.
- Add a few drops of tea tree essential oil you can also use lavender or eucalyptus oils.
- Inhale the steam, but be careful not to get burnt. The steam can also help thin and loosen the mucus in your nasal passages, which in turn will give you relief from clogged ears.
Use the tea tree oil inhalation regularly to get rid of clogged ears that are due to a cold, the flu, or a sinus infection.
Otitis Media With Effusion
Otitis media with effusion is a buildup of fluid deep inside the middle ear. The pressure of this fluid may cause pain and temporary hearing loss.
OME, which is sometimes called “glue ear,” may clear up on its own. Sometimes a minor procedure to place small tubes in the ear can help drain the fluid to provide relief.
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How To Use Ear Drops
Ear drops are not always easy to administer. Follow these steps when using them:
- Lie down on your side with the infected ear facing up.
- Drip your ear drop along the ear canal side .
- Let it slide into the ear canal, and remain still and relaxed for a few minutes.
- Sit up slowly. Avoid sticking anything in your ear to soak up the excess ear drop.
- Let your ear air dry.
Your doctor may decide oral antibiotic treatment is best if:
- The infection has already spread beyond your ear canal
- You have uncontrolled diabetes
- Youve had radiotherapy to your ear
- Its not possible to administer topical antibiotic to the area
You may also treat the ear pain with an oral painkiller such as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug or Tylenol .
Examples of common NSAIDs include:
Risk Factors For Ear Infections
Ear infections occur most commonly in young children because they have short and narrow Eustachian tubes. About of children develop an acute ear infection at some point.
Infants who are bottle-fed also have a higher incidence of ear infections than their breastfed counterparts.
Other factors that increase the risk of developing an ear infection are:
- altitude changes
- Take OTC decongestants like pseudoephedrine .
- Avoid sleeping on the affected ear.
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Ear Infection Home Treatments And Remedies
Ear infections can occur in the outer ear , middle ear , and inner ear . Natural and home remedies to treat pain include:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen
- Applying a warm compress on the infected ear.
- Applying naturopathic ear drops with ginger, tea tree, or olive oil may help with pain and inflammation.
Talk with your doctor or pediatrician before using any herbal or naturopathic medicine for ear infections.
What You Can Do To Soothe A Cold Or Ear Infection:
- Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce fever and head pressure.
- Try a cool-mist humidifier or shower steam to loosen congestion.
- Try over-the-counter saline drops to clear the nose.
- Consider sinus rinses or devices to remove mucus from young childrens noses.
- For children older than age 1, honey in warm water can soothe a cough.
- For older children, an extra pillow under their head can help them sleep better.
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Adenoid And Tonsil Removal
Adenoid removal or adenoid and tonsil removal may help some children who have repeat ear infections or fluid behind the eardrum. Children younger than 4 dont usually have their adenoids taken out unless they have severe nasal blockage.
To treat chronic ear infections, experts recommend removing adenoids and tonsils only after ear tubes and antibiotics have failed. Removing adenoids may improve air and fluid flow in nasal passages. This may reduce the chance of fluid collecting in the middle ear, which can lead to infection.
When used along with other treatments, removing adenoids can help some children who have repeat ear infections. But taking out the tonsils with the adenoids isnt very helpful.footnote 2
Tonsils are removed if they are often infected. Experts dont recommend tonsil removal alone as a treatment for ear infections.footnote 3
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Give Warm Or Cold Compresses A Go
One of the best ways of treating an ear infection at home is to give a warm or cold compress a go. Try a warm, damp washcloth or a heating pad to relieve your ear pain.
You can use both a warm and a cold compress and for best results, be sure to alternate between both. Keep the compress on for approximately ten minutes. It is an excellent pain relief method for individuals of all ages.
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When To Contact A Medical Professional
Contact your provider if:
- You have swelling behind the ear.
- Your symptoms get worse, even with treatment.
- You have high fever or severe pain.
- Severe pain suddenly stops, which may indicate a ruptured eardrum.
- New symptoms appear, especially severe headache, dizziness, swelling around the ear, or twitching of the face muscles.
Let the provider know right away if a child younger than 6 months has a fever, even if the child doesnt have other symptoms.
Earache Remedies You Can Try
1. Hot or cold compress
The skinny: Grab an ice or heat pack and put it onthe affected ear to help with the pain.
Doctors advice: The temperature you use is up to you. Wrap it in a towel tomake sure its not too cold or too hot. You dont want to cause any burns.
2.Over-the-counter pain relievers
The skinny: Pain relievers work as advertised, helping take the edge off the pain.
Doctors advice:Both adults and kids can rest easier when they take acetaminophen or ibuprofen at the right dosage. These medications reduce pain and fever, making you feel more comfortable.
3. Sleep position
The skinny: How you sleep can affect ear pain. Rest with your head on two or more pillows, so the affected ear is higher than the rest of your body. Or if the left ear has an infection, sleep on your right side. Less pressure = less ear pain.
Doctors advice: It could be effective, though a few inches may not make a big difference in pressure measurement. But if it makes you feel better, go for it.
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Can I Treat An Ear Infection At Home
You can treat some outer and middle ear infections at home with remedies and over-the-counter medication for symptoms like pain and inflammation.
Swimmers ear home treatment
Usually, prolonged and recurrent immersion in water causes outer ear infections. The primary treatment for swimmers ear is to avoid getting water in the ear canal until the ear pain is gone.
An outer ear infection may take several days to heal, but the pain usually is gone within one week. Moreover, the warmer the water, the higher the likelihood of getting swimmers ear, for example, people who swim in the summer are more likely to develop an outer ear infection than wintertime surfers.
Middle ear infection home treatment
Numerous studies have shown that viruses cause middle ear infections. Pain management for ear pain for two or three days will allow the bodys natural immune system to fight and cure the infection, much like the common cold. However, some people with middle ear infections may need to see a doctor or other healthcare professional for medical treatment.
Inner ear infection and labyrinthitis home treatment
Inner ear infections and labyrinthitis usually treat inner ear infections in adults and children.