What Is An Inner Ear Infection
First, its important to understand what makes up the inner ear.
The inner ear is responsible for hearing and balance. It consists of semicircular canals, cochlea, and vestibules.
Collectively, these parts are known as the inner ear. It can become infected by bacteria or viruses. Or, it can seem infected if theres inflammation happening.
Ear infections are more common in children and for them, they tend to go away quickly and on their own. The same isnt always true for adults.
What Else Could It Be
Many other conditions have similar symptoms as an ear infection. For this reason, you should avoid self-diagnosis and have your symptoms checked by a healthcare provider , especially if your symptoms last beyond three days.
The following symptoms can develop due to ear infections, as well as with other conditions:
- Ear pain: Common causes of ear pain include swimmer’s ear, ear trauma, or shingles. Children, in particular, may have ear pain if they get a small object stuck in their ears.
- Redness: Redness may be caused by upper respiratory infection, crying, high fever, or ear trauma.
- If the healthcare provider finds that your eardrum does not move as it should in response to pressure, they may consider another condition like tympanosclerosis, in which calcium builds up on the eardrum.
How Ear Infections Start
Ear infections often begin after a child has a cold, sore throat, or upper respiratory infection caused by common bacteria or viruses.
Behind your eardrum is a small chamber called the middle ear. Connected to the middle ear is your eustachian tube, which drains fluid into the back of your throat and ventilates the middle ear space. An infection can cause the eustachian tube to swell and block fluid from draining or allow negative pressure to build up.
As the fluid builds up in the middle ear, viruses or bacteria can grow, causing an infection in the middle ear. Children have narrower and shorter eustachian tubes than adults, making them more prone to ear infections.
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Treatment Options For Ear Infections And Pain
For relief of ear pain associated with swimmer’s ear or a middle ear infection,it’s OK to take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or Tylenol® . A warm compress placed over theaffected ear can also relieve the pain from swimmer’s ear. You should consult with an expert to treat the cause of the infection.
How The Labyrinth Works
The fluid-filled channels of the labyrinth are known as the vestibular system and they are connected at different angles. This fluid moves when you move your head, telling your brain how far, fast and in what direction your head is moving. This allows your body to balance properly. The vestibular system works in a similar way to a stereo, with your left and right ears sending separate signals to your brain. If one ear becomes infected, these signals become out of sync, which confuses your brain and triggers symptoms such as dizziness and loss of balance.
The labyrinth also contains a small, spiral-shaped cavity called the cochlea. It sends sound waves to the language processing areas of the brain. Inflammation can disrupt this function, leading to hearing loss.
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How Do You Unclog A Eustachian Tube
You may be able to open the blocked tubes with a simple exercise. Close your mouth, hold your nose, and gently blow as if you are blowing your nose. Yawning and chewing gum also may help. You may hear or feel a pop when the tubes open to make the pressure equal between the inside and outside of your ears.
How Is Labyrinthitis Treated
Treating most cases of labyrinthitis includes observation, bed rest, and hydration. Steroids, such as prednisone, are typically prescribed to minimize inner ear inflammation. In some cases, steroids may be injected through the eardrum into the middle ear space. Severe nausea and vomiting may be treated with anti-nausea medications. Vertigo may be treated with antihistamines or sedatives, such as benzodiazepines, although long-term use can prolong the recovery.
The treatment of bacterial labyrinthitis is to control the primary infection, which is usually a middle ear infection. This may require antibiotics, placement of an ear tube, or more advanced ear surgery. Treatment for autoimmune labyrinthitis addresses the underlying autoimmune condition with steroids or other immune modulating medications usually directed by the rheumatologist.
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Ear Infection Home Remedies
There are some home remedies to help your child’s ear pain. Ear drops can bring relief, but these should not be used without checking with your child’s doctor first. Over-the-counter pain and fever medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are used. However, you should never give aspirin to children. Warm washcloths applied to the outside of the ear may be helpful in reliving some pain. Gargling with salt water may help soothe an aggravated throat and possibly clear the Eustachian tubes. A few drops of warmed olive oil in the ears may soothe ear pain, but it is suggested to speak with your child’s doctor beforehand.
Otitis Media In Adults
Otitis media is another name for a middle ear infection. It means an infection behind your eardrum. This kind of ear infection can happen after any condition that keeps fluid from draining from the middle ear. These conditions include allergies, a cold, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection.
Middle ear infections are common in children, but they can also happen in adults. An ear infection in an adult may mean a more serious problem than in a child. So you may need additional tests. If you have an ear infection, you should see your healthcare provider for treatment. If they happen repeatedly, you should see an otolaryngologist or an otologist .
What are the types of middle ear infections?
Infections can affect the middle ear in several ways. They are:
Who is more likely to get a middle ear infection?
You are more likely to get an ear infection if you:
- Smoke or are around someone who smokes
- Have seasonal or year-round allergy symptoms
- Have a cold or other upper respiratory infection
What causes a middle ear infection?
The middle ear connects to the throat by a canal called the eustachian tube. This tube helps even out the pressure between the outer ear and the inner ear. A cold or allergy can irritate the tube or cause the area around it to swell. This can keep fluid from draining from the middle ear. The fluid builds up behind the eardrum. Bacteria and viruses can grow in this fluid. The bacteria and viruses cause the middle ear infection.
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How Is Otitis Interna Treated
Otitis interna is a very serious condition. If your cat is unable to eat or drink normally due to nausea or disorientation, then hospitalization for intravenous fluid therapy is generally warranted. Nausea must be controlled and dehydration avoided. It may also be necessary to sedate or anesthetize your cat in order to adequately see the ear tissues, take samples for bacterial culture, and appropriately clean the ear.
Treatment of the underlying infection is very important, and your veterinarian will prescribe the appropriate medications. Medications will be administered directly in the ear and orally. Antibiotics will be prescribed for a bacterial infection for 6-8 weeks minimum. If the infection is fungal in nature, an anti-fungal medication will be prescribed. Whatever medications are chosen, it is critical that they be given precisely as prescribed.
If your cat has an altered balance, restrict her activity during treatment to prevent falling injuries. These cats should not have access to stairs as they may take a tumble. You may also need to hand feed your cat temporarily – reaching down into a dish may stimulate nausea.
“Cats with otitis interna occasionally require surgery if they have relapses, they do not respond to medical management, or if they deteriorate in spite of treatment.”
Swollen Tonsils And Ear Infections
Swollen tonsils are not usually a direct cause of ear infections. Enlarged adenoid tissue in the back of the nose can sometimes put pressure on the Eustachian tubes, preventing them from draining fluid out of the ear. However, they are more likely the source of bacteria that causes ear infections. Sometimes, doctors recommend removal for children who have very large adenoids and frequent ear infections.
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Corneal Ulcers In Cats
The cornea is the clear, glistening membrane that makes up the surface of the eyeball. A penetration or erosion through a few layers of the outermost corneal epithelium is called a corneal erosion or corneal abrasion. A corneal ulcer is a deeper erosion through the entire epithelium down into the stroma.
Ear Infection Symptoms: Babies
These infections can be sneaky with babies or children who are too young to tell you what hurts. A lot of times theyâll start tugging or pulling on an ear. Little kids can also just get cranky, have trouble sleeping, or not eat well. Babies may push their bottles away because pressure in their ears makes it hurt to swallow.
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Are There Other Signs I Should Watch For
Vomiting and nausea may occur during the acute phase of otitis interna. If the facial nerve, which is located in the area of the inner ear, is damaged by an inner ear infection, your cat may develop some of the following symptoms:
- drooling from the side of the mouth
- difficulty eating and dropping food
- inability to blink
- development of dry eye in the unblinking eye or Dry Eye in Cats)
- eye discharge
- drooping of the eyelids, lips, and nostrils on the affected side
- symptoms of Horners syndrome which include uneven pupil size, called anisocoria, prominent third eyelid, and drooping upper eyelid on the affected side.
With long-term facial nerve paralysis the face may actually twist toward the side of the ear infection.
Additional signs include redness in the affected ear and discharge with a foul odor. The outer ear canal may become thickened and hard to the touch from chronic inflammation and the lymph node at the base of the chin on the affected side may become enlarged. Your cat may become reluctant to move at all, preferring to sit or lay in one spot and her head may actually swing from side to side, even at rest. You may also notice short, rapid side-to-side movements of the eyeballs called nystagmus.
How Is An Inner Ear Infection Treated
Inner ear infections are mostly caused by viruses, so there is no role for antibiotics . But the good news is that the infection usually resolves on its own in a few days.
And while you are recovering, there are medicines that can help decrease your symptoms:
Sometimes, steroids are prescribed to decrease the inflammation from inner ear infections. But there is no convincing evidence that shows this helps, and so this treatment remains controversial.
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When To See Your Healthcare Provider
Children younger than three months of age need to see a healthcare provider at the first sign of ear infection.
Older children should be seen if they have one or more of the following symptoms:
- A fever of 102.2 degrees or higher
- Discharge leaking from their ear
- The symptoms get worse or do not resolve within three days
- Hearing loss
Ear infection in adults may signify a more serious problem and should be checked by a healthcare provider. If the infection comes and goes, schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist, a healthcare provider who specializes in ear, nose, and throat conditions.
How Can Otitis Externa Be Prevented
A dry ear is unlikely to become infected, so it is important to keep the ears free of moisture. Prevention tips include:
- Use ear plugs when swimming.
- Use a dry towel or hair dryer to dry your ears.
- Have your ears cleaned periodically by an ENT specialist if you have itchy, flaky or scaly ears, or extensive earwax.
- Do not use cotton swabs to remove ear wax. They may pack ear wax and dirt deeper into the ear canal, remove the layer of earwax that protects your ear, and irritate the thin skin of the ear canal. This creates an ideal environment for infection.
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Signs Of Inner Ear Infections
Infections are one of the most common types of inner ear problems. You could develop an infection in your inner ears after having a normal cold or the flu. However, the inner ear problems can sometimes appear without any previous symptoms.
When you have an infection in your inner ear, you might experience the following symptoms:
- Ear ache
- Tinnitus or ringing in your ears
- Hearing loss
- Feeling of fullness in your ear
Your balance could also be affected by an infection in this part of your ear, but balance problems can also be a sign of other kinds of inner ear conditions.
What Causes Middle Ear Infections
Most middle ear infections occur when an infection such as a cold, leads to a build-up of mucus in the middle ear and causes the Eustachian tube to become swollen or blocked.
This mean mucus cant drain away properly, making it easier for an infection to spread into the middle ear.
An enlarged adenoid can also block the Eustachian tube. The adenoid can be removed if it causes persistent or frequent ear infections. Read more about removing adenoids.
Younger children are particularly vulnerable to middle ear infections as:
- the Eustachian tube is smaller in children than in adults
- a childs adenoids are relatively much larger than an adults
Certain conditions can also increase the risk of middle ear infections, including:
- having a cleft palate a type of birth defect where a child has a split in the roof of their mouth
- having Downs syndrome a genetic condition that typically causes some level of learning disability and a characteristic range of physical features
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What Are The Symptoms Of Labyrinthitis
- Hearing loss, often in high frequency pitch range
- Tinnitus, or ringing or buzzing sensation in the ear
- Imbalance and unsteadiness, falling or swaying to one side while walking
- Vertigo, or feeling like you are spinning when you are still
- Involuntary twitching or jerking of the eyeball, called nystagmus
- Nausea and vomiting
What Causes An Ear Infection
Ear infections are caused by bacteria and viruses. Many times, an ear infection begins after a cold or other respiratory infection. The bacteria or virus travel into the middle ear through the eustachian tube . This tube connects the middle ear to the back of the throat. The bacteria or virus can also cause the eustachian tube to swell. This swelling can cause the tube to become blocked, which keeps normally produced fluids to build up in the middle ear instead of being able to be drained away.
Adding to the problem is that the eustachian tube is shorter and has less of a slope in children than in adults. This physical difference makes these tubes easier to become clogged and more difficult to drain. The trapped fluid can become infected by a virus or bacteria, causing pain.
Medical terminology and related conditions
Because your healthcare provider may use these terms, its important to have a basic understanding of them:
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What Are The Signs Of An Ear Infections In Dogs
The inflammation that ear infections cause can lead to significant pain for the pup affected.
Due to this, you can typically expect to see signs of discomfort in a dog suffering from otitis externa.
Some of the most common symptoms of ear infections in dogs include:
- Crying out when the ears are touched
- Discharge from the ears
If you notice any of the above symptoms in your canine friend, we suggest reaching out to your veterinarian for guidance.
Not only are ear infections extremely uncomfortable for a dog, but they can quickly worsen without medical intervention.
Not only should your dogs pain be a driving force for a trip to the vet, but these symptoms can point to other ear conditions aside from infections.
These symptoms can be seen in cases of ear foreign bodies or even tumors of the ear canal, so we always suggest taking these signs seriously.
Can I Exercise If I Have An Inner Ear Infection
Any illness can throw your workout schedule into disarray, but inner ear infections can disrupt an element essential to many physical activities: your sense of balance. Complex activities rely on feedback from your inner ear to give you positional awareness. Without that sense, you could become dizzy or susceptible to falls. A significant infection may also leave you feeling feverish or drained and unable to perform a strenuous workout. Talk to your doctor before exercising with an inner ear infection.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Inner Ear Problems
Inner ear problems come in many different forms, including infections and balance disorders, but the symptoms are often similar. The biggest clue that you have a problem with your inner ears is that your balance is affected. However, there can be other signs of infections too.
Hot Salt Wrapped In A Cloth
Salt is one of the most readily available home remedies for dealing with pain in the ear. All you have to do here is take a small cup of salt, heat it properly, then wrap it in a cloth and seal the end of the cloth by tying a knot.
Now, lay down and place the cloth with hot salt on the affected ear for a couple of minutes .
Repeat this process a few times daily to relieve you from the pain and swelling in the ear. Alternatively, you could also use rice in place of salt for the same purpose.
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