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Ear Infections: Types, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

Drotumdi O

Otumdi Omekara, MD., MPAHA - Member of Society of Physician Entrepreneurs

The two common types of otitis are otitis externa and otitis media 

Otitis Externa or Swimmer's Ear 

 -Infection of ear lobe, external ear canal, and ear drum 

 - Caused by bacteria and viruses that enter the ear during swimming 

-  Surface cells of the external ear are inflamed, swollen, itchy, and painful to touched 

- Makes kids irritable, cry a lot, and pull frequently on their ears 

- Kids may have fever, runny nose or stuffy nose 

- Adults may have no complaints other than ear irritation and mild ear ache or stuffiness 

- Earache usually controlled with mild analgesics like Tylenol and Ibuprofen 

- Tends to clear spontaneously, but some may need antibiotic ointment prescription by a care provide 

  

Otitis Media or Labrynthitis 

  - May be purulent or exudative 

Purulent otitis media 

- Results from either heavy external ear infections that rupture the eardrum and invade the middle ear 

- Or from the extension of upper respiratory tract infections through the eusthacian tube which connects the oral cavity to the ear 

- Infection affects the eardrum, ossicles, and labrynth 

- Offensive pus drains out of the external ear canal 

- Pus is cultured to determine the right antibiotic treatment 

- Stronger pain pills like vicodin may be needed to control the pain 

Exudative otitis media 

- Causes a sterile fluid to accumulate in the middle ear due to swelling and blockage of the eusthacian tube during an upper respiratory tract infection 

- Complete resolution of recurrent ear infections requires the expertise of an otolaryngologist (ear nose and throat specialist 

DIAGNOSIS 

- Made through focused history taking, and physical exam 

- Otoscope is used to light up the ear canal and middle ear 

- May reveal inflammation, discharge, tympanic membrane rupture, or foreign body 

- Tuning fork is used to test for hearing by bone conduction, where there is the possibility of nerve deafness 

-  Audiometry (hearing evaluation) may be done if there is evidence of poor response to tuning fork test 

 TREATMENT 

-         Spontaneous resolution of ear infection is common once the source of infection is identified and avoided 

-         Some cases of chronic otitis externa and otitis media require antibiotic ointments or drops 

-         Hydrogen peroxide drops have also been used to clean out was and debris from the external ear canal.  

-          ENT specialists also do eusthacian tube irrigation or insert plastic tubes to help keep the eusthacian tube    open 

-         Supportive treatments include pain pills and warm compress 

PREVENTION 

-    Avoiding dirty swimming pools 

-         Wearing ear plugs during swimming 

-         Avoiding ear picking with fingers of unsterile sticks 

-         Reporting ear symptoms early to the health care providers 

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The two common types are otitis externa and otitis media 

Otitis Externa or Swimmer's Ear 

 -Infection of ear lobe, external ear canal, and ear drum 

 - Caused by bacteria and viruses that enter the ear during swimming 

-  Surface cells of the external ear are inflamed, swollen, itchy, and painful to touched 

- Makes kids irritable, cry a lot, and pull frequently on their ears 

- Kids may have fever, runny nose or stuffy nose 

- Adults may have no complaints other than ear irritation and mild ear ache or stuffiness 

- Earache usually controlled with mild analgesics like Tylenol and Ibuprofen 

- Tends to clear spontaneously, but some may need antibiotic ointment prescription by a care provide 

  

Otitis Media or Labrynthitis 

  - May be purulent or exudative 

Purulent otitis media 

- Results from either heavy external ear infections that rupture the eardrum and invade the middle ear 

- Or from the extension of upper respiratory tract infections through the eusthacian tube which connects the oral cavity to the ear 

- Infection affects the eardrum, ossicles, and labrynth 

- Offensive pus drains out of the external ear canal 

- Pus is cultured to determine the right antibiotic treatment 

- Stronger pain pills like vicodin may be needed to control the pain 

Exudative otitis media 

- Causes a sterile fluid to accumulate in the middle ear due to swelling and blockage of the eusthacian tube during an upper respiratory tract infection 

- Complete resolution of recurrent ear infections requires the expertise of an otolaryngologist (ear nose and throat specialist 

DIAGNOSIS 

- Made through focused history taking, and physical exam 

- Otoscope is used to light up the ear canal and middle ear 

- May reveal inflammation, discharge, tympanic membrane rupture, or foreign body 

- Tuning fork is used to test for hearing by bone conduction, where there is the possibility of nerve deafness 

-  Audiometry (hearing evaluation) may be done if there is evidence of poor response to tuning fork test 

 TREATMENT 

-         Spontaneous resolution of ear infection is common once the source of infection is identified and avoided 

-         Some cases of chronic otitis externa and otitis media require antibiotic ointments or drops 

-         Hydrogen peroxide drops have also been used to clean out was and debris from the external ear canal.  

-          ENT specialists also do eusthacian tube irrigation or insert plastic tubes to help keep the eusthacian tube    open 

-         Supportive treatments include pain pills and warm compress 

PREVENTION 

-    Avoiding dirty swimming pools 

-         Wearing ear plugs during swimming 

-         Avoiding ear picking with fingers of unsterile sticks 

-         Reporting ear symptoms early to the health care providers