What Is The Inner Ear
Your inner ear plays an important role in your hearing and balance. Its primary function is to receive sound waves that come in through the outer ear and go through the middle ear, where the sound makes your eardrum vibrate. These vibrations travel to the inner ear, which transmits them to the brain as nerve impulses.
Your inner ear is a labyrinth of fluid-filled tubes and sacs. It has three main parts:
- The cochlea, a shell-shaped structure that sends sound impulses to the brain
- The semicircular canals, which use your heads movement to sense your position in space
- The vestibule, which is your primary balance system
Messages run through this system to the brain by way of the vestibulocochlear nerve. This nerve has two branches. One is responsible for hearing and one for balance. An inner ear infection happens when this nerve or the structures around it get irritated or inflamed.
How Long Does Dizziness Last With An Inner Ear Infection
The symptoms of labyrinthitis usually go away in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, treatments can help to reduce dizziness, vertigo, and other symptoms. Additionally, severe symptoms usually only last a week, and most people are usually back to 100 percent in 2 to 3 months. Older adults, however, are likely to have longer-lasting dizziness.
- Antibiotics for bacterial infections
If the symptoms of labyrinthitis have gone away within a few weeks, all of your treatment should be complete. If, on the other hand, the symptoms remain, your doctor could have you do vestibular rehabilitation exercises. These physical therapy exercises can help your brain to adequately respond to the imbalance that the infection caused.
What Can I Do To Feel Better
At home, follow your doctors directions for using ear drops and take all doses of antibiotic medicine as prescribed. Keep taking these for all days of treatment, even if you start to feel better. If you stop too soon, the infection could come back.
You can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for ear pain. If they dont help, let your doctor know. Youll only need pain medicine for a day or two until the ear drops and antibiotics begin to work.
To protect your ear while it heals, your doctor will probably tell you to keep your ears dry for several days or weeks even while showering or shampooing! This can be tough, but your doctor can give you suggestions on how to do this, such as using a cotton ball covered in petroleum jelly as an earplug.
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Managing Your Symptoms At Home
The advice below should help to relieve your symptoms to some extent and help to prevent complications:
- avoid getting your affected ear wet wearing a shower cap while showering and bathing can help, but you should avoid swimming until the condition has fully cleared
- remove any discharge or debris by gently swabbing your outer ear with cotton wool, being careful not to damage it don’t stick cotton wool or a cotton bud inside your ear
- remove anything from your affected ear that may cause an allergic reaction, such as hearing aids, ear plugs and earrings
- use painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve ear pain these aren’t suitable for everyone, so make sure you check the information leaflet that comes with the medication first if you’re still unsure, check with your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist
- if your condition is caused by a boil in your ear, placing a warm flannel or cloth over the affected ear can help it heal faster
Perforation Of The Eardrum In Outer Ear Infection And Middle Ear Infection
There is a risk of eardrum perforation in middle ear infection and outer ear infection. When there is a perforation of the eardrum, the pain in the ear will come down, and ear discharge will start. The discharge could be watery or pus-type. You need to consult the doctor immediately. When treated ASAP, the eardrum can heal itself. Else, you might need major surgery to close the perforation.
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How Do You Treat Vertigo
Many times, vertigo can go away on its own without medical treatment. Sometimes, though, people continue to have several episodes over months or even years. Underlying conditions like Ménière’s disease can exacerbate these symptoms.
Different types of vertigo can have specific types of treatment. One example would be head movement exercises.
Antihistamines, meanwhile, are a type of medication that can help with treatment if you continue to have bouts of vertigo.
Vestibular rehabilitation training could also be prescribed by your doctor for vertigo because it can help with balance issues and dizziness.
It is extremely important to visit your doctor if you think you may have an inner ear infection. Your doctor can keep an eye on your symptoms and make sure that you get the correct treatment.
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Middle Ear Infection Symptoms
When viruses or other bacteria that affect the eyes, mouth and nose get trapped here, infections begin in the eardrum is located just in front of the middle ear. Those who have a middle ear infection have trouble with their hearing due to a fluid buildup in the back behind the drum and the ears feel clogged. The pressure from the building fluid pushes on the eardrum and fluid can drain from the ear itself.
What Should I Expect If I Or My Child Has An Ear Infection
Ear infections are common in children. Adults can get them too. Most ear infections are not serious. Your healthcare provider will recommend over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever. Pain relief may begin as soon as a few hours after taking the drug.
Your healthcare provider may wait a few days before prescribing an antibiotic. Many infections go away on their own without the need for antibiotics. If you or your child receives an antibiotic, you should start to see improvement within two to three days.
If you or your child has ongoing or frequent infections, or if fluid remains in the middle ear and puts hearing at risk, ear tubes may be surgically implanted in the eardrum to keep fluid draining from the eustachian tube as it normally should.
Never hesitate to contact your healthcare provider if you have any concerns or questions.
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Any Other Recent Innovations In The Treatment Of Ear Infections
Dr. Wang: There’s a procedure I’ve been doing for a few years called Eustachian tube dilation. Using endoscopic guidance through the nose, you insert a balloon in the Eustachian tube, blow it up and leave it there for up to two minutes. This can address the Eustachian tube dysfunction that leads to middle ear infections. I’ve found it works in about 50% of patients, so it doesn’t work for everyone. But it’s so noninvasive, it’s a good place to start with certain patients who are good candidates for it. There’s also a new drug that is almost like a gel that you can squirt into the ear canal. It slowly dissolves and may be easier to get into those really clogged areas than traditional drops.
How Do You Know If An Ear Infection Is Viral Or Bacterial
It can be difficult to tell, at least in the beginning. If you or your child is recovering from a virus , its probably more likely youre dealing with a viral ear infection. If strep throat or pneumonia has been in the house, theres a greater chance that its bacterial. But thats not always the case.
Symptoms are similar with viral and bacterial infections. One difference is you have a higher fever with a bacterial ear infection. However, fevers can also happen with viral infections.
Often, its a bit of a waiting game. If the ear infection goes away on its own within a week or so, you can assume it was caused by a virus. If it isnt improving after a week, it might be a bacterial infection and you should definitely seek medical treatment.
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Preventing Outer Ear Infection
The following tips can help to reduce your risk of having an outer ear infection.
- Try to keep the inside of your ears dry by keeping shampoo and water out of your ears when youre having a shower or a bath. Dry your ears with a dry towel or hair dryer afterwards.
- Dont use cotton buds or other objects to clean your ear canal.
- Use ear plugs and/or a tight-fitting swimming cap when you go swimming, to prevent water getting in your ears. Dont swim in polluted water.
- Consider using acidic drops before and after swimming if youre prone to outer ear infections. You can buy these from a pharmacy.
- If you have a skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis, make sure you keep it under control as much as possible.
- If you have a build-up of earwax, see a doctor or nurse to check if you need to get it removed. Dont try to do it yourself.
Symptoms Of Inner Ear Infection
Since the inner ear plays key roles in both hearing and balance, any issues with these senses could be linked to an infection in this area. Infections in other parts of the ear are less likely to affect your hearing or balance, but the other symptoms can be similar.
Possible signs of an inner ear infection or inflammation include:
- Vertigo, a sensation that you or your surroundings are spinning or moving around even when everything is still
- Having trouble balancing or walking normally
- Feeling like the ear is full or blocked
- Tinnitus or ringing in your ears
- Fluid or pus coming from your ear
Inner ear infections can also be linked to other symptoms, depending on the source of the infection. For example, if the infection spread to the inner ear from your airways, you might also have a runny nose. In some cases, these other symptoms might be fading when the problems in your inner ear begin, because the original infection might have been eliminated. You could also have more generalised symptoms of infection, such as a fever.
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What Other Types Of Ear Infections Affect Adults
Dr. Wang: A middle ear infection, or otitis media, is most frequently associated with children, but adults get them as well. This type of ear infection happens when viruses or bacteria get into the middle ear the space behind the eardrum. The middle ear fills with pus or infected fluid. The pus pushes on the eardrum, which can be very painful. Middle ear infections are caused by swelling in one or both of the Eustachian tubes. The Eustachian tubes connect the middle ear to the back of the throat and act as release valves to equalize pressure within the middle ear. When that process is interfered with, that’s when infections can develop.
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:
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Are There Any Differences In Getting Ear Tubes As An Adult Versus As A Child Do You Still Have To Avoid Swimming
Dr. Wang: They function pretty much the same for kids as adults. You still have to have relative water precautions. You can swim but it may be safest to use ear plugs or a swim band to keep water out. The main difference is adults typically do fine with ear tube placement in the office. There’s no need for an OR or general anesthesia like there traditionally has been for kids. Actually, there’s a new procedure for placing ear tubes in kids that allows us to do it super quickly with local anesthesia only. So now we can do that in clinic as well.
When Is An Ear Infection Considered To Be Chronic
If an ear infection lasts for more than three months, its considered chronic. If chronic ear infections arent treated, it can lead to hearing loss and other serious problems. In children, chronic ear infections can affect their ability to achieve developmental milestones, like walking and talking.
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Keep Your Ears Dry And Clean
- Try not to let water, soap or shampoo get inside your ears when you wash them. Wear a shower cap while you shower or bathe if you don’t intend to wash your hair.
- After washing, dry your ears using a hairdryer on a low setting. Never push the corners of a towel into your ears to dry them, as this can cause damage.
- If you swim regularly, wear a swimming hat that covers your ears or use ear plugs .
- Don’t swim in polluted water.
- Turn your head from side to side after getting out of water. This helps water drain from your ears.
- Don’t stick anything into your ear canal. This includes pens/pencils, fingers, bobby clips or cotton-tipped swabs. Swabs should only be used to dry the outer ear.
Remedies For Inner Ear Infections
Do you need antibiotics?
If you have a bacterial inner ear infection, you may need an antibiotic. However, most inner ear infections are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Antibiotics arent effective against viral infections. For viral infections, your doctor will suggest treatment options to control your inflammation and help with your symptoms.
What treatments can help?
If you have a viral inner ear infection, your doctor may prescribe a steroid treatment to reduce inflammation or antiviral medication to attack the virus.
What are some inner ear infection home remedies?
Besides medication, there are steps you can take at home to ease the symptoms of an inner ear infection. For example:
- Keep your head upright as much as possible. Sitting or standing can help to drain the ear.
- Apply a warm compress to the affected ear to relieve pain.
- Avoid smoking and drink as little alcohol as possible.
- Reduce your stress levels, since tension can worsen symptoms.
For labyrinthitis, specifically, to combat dizziness and nausea, you can try:
- Resting in a dark, quiet place
- Drinking plenty of water, especially if your nausea leads to vomiting
- Keeping your vision focused in one place instead of glancing around at your surroundings
- Going for walks as soon as you feel you can, with someone for support until you get your balance back
Infections Inside The Ear
Antibiotics are not usually offered because infections inside the ear often clear up on their own and antibiotics make little difference to symptoms, including pain.
Antibiotics might be prescribed if:
- an ear infection does not start to get better after 3 days
- you or your child has any fluid coming out of the ear
- there are other factors that increase your or your childs risk of complications, such as having a weakened immune system
They may also be prescribed if your child is less than 2 years old and has an infection in both ears.
If antibiotics are not prescribed, eardrops containing a painkiller and an anaesthetic might be prescribed.
Treatments For Outer Ear Infection
Outer ear infections may heal on their own without treatment. Antibiotic eardrops are the most common treatment for an outer ear infection that hasnt healed on its own. They can be prescribed by your doctor.
Doctors may also prescribe antibiotic drops mixed with steroids to reduce swelling in the ear canal. The ear drops are typically used several times a day for 7 to 10 days.
If a fungus is the cause of the outer ear infection, your doctor will prescribe antifungal ear drops. This type of infection is more common in people with diabetes or a depleted immune system.
To reduce symptoms, its important to keep water out of the ears while the infection is healing.
Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used to reduce pain. In extreme cases, prescription pain medication may be prescribed.
The most important part of home treatment for outer ear infections is prevention. Keeping the ear dry as much as possible decreases the risk of infection.
Other tips to keep in mind include:
- using a cotton ball or soft ear plugs to prevent water from entering the ear while showering or bathing
- using a swim cap
- avoiding scratching the inner ear, even with cotton swabs
- avoiding removing ear wax on your own
- using an eardrop mixture of rubbing alcohol and/or vinegar after swimming to help dry up excess water
- toweling the head and ears dry after swimming