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:
Dilation Of The Eustachian Tube
More recently, dilation of the eustachian tube using balloon catheter has gained attention as a method of treating eustachian tube obstruction. There are two methods of performing this procedure depending on the route of the catheter introduction and the area of the Eustachian tube to be dilated. Dennis Poe popularized the transnasal introduction and the dilation of the nose side of the eustachian tube. Muaaz Tarabichi pioneered the transtympanic introduction of the balloon catheter and the dilatation of the proximal part of the cartilaginous eustachian tube.
Ear Infections In Older Adults
While ear infections are more common in children, older adults can also get them.
Swimmerâs ear is most common in people ages 45 to 75. A potentially life threatening ear infection, malignant otitis externa , mostly occurs in older people with diabetes or weakened immune systems.
The aging process may affect the structure of the ears, making older adults more susceptible to ear diseases.
A of 138 people ages 60 and over found that 9.4% had a middle ear infection.
Older adults who have ear infections may experience symptoms such as the following:
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of An Inner Ear Infection
Ear infections can happen anywhere in your outer, middle or inner ear. The symptoms can be very different depending on where the problem is located. If the infection is in your inner ear then it can have a particularly dramatic effect on your senses of balance and hearing. Read on to learn more about inner ear infections and how they can affect you.
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How Does A Doctor Diagnose A Middle Ear Infection
The first thing a doctor will do is ask you about your childs health. Has your child had a head cold or sore throat recently? Is he having trouble sleeping? Is she pulling at her ears? If an ear infection seems likely, the simplest way for a doctor to tell is to use a lighted instrument, called an otoscope, to look at the eardrum. A red, bulging eardrum indicates an infection.
A doctor also may use a pneumatic otoscope, which blows a puff of air into the ear canal, to check for fluid behind the eardrum. A normal eardrum will move back and forth more easily than an eardrum with fluid behind it.
Tympanometry, which uses sound tones and air pressure, is a diagnostic test a doctor might use if the diagnosis still isnt clear. A tympanometer is a small, soft plug that contains a tiny microphone and speaker as well as a device that varies air pressure in the ear. It measures how flexible the eardrum is at different pressures.
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Symptoms Of Ear Infections
Intense pain in your childs ear is usually the first sign of an ear infection. Young children can tell you that their ear hurts, but babies may only cry. Your child may repeatedly pull on the ear that hurts. The pain is usually worse at night and when your child is chewing, sucking a bottle, or lying down. Thats when the pressure is at its greatest. Other symptoms include a runny nose, cough, fever, vomiting, or dizziness, and hearing loss.
What You Can Do To Prevent Ear Infections:
- Breast-feed your baby for at least six months. Infants who are exclusively formula-fed for the first six months have a 70 percent greater risk of ear infections. If you must bottle-feed, hold your baby’s head above stomach level to help keep the eustachian tubes from getting blocked.
- Avoid group daycare during your child’s first year, if possible. A recent Journal of Pediatrics study found that around 65 percent of babies in daycare suffered at least six respiratory infections in their first year, compared with only 29 percent of babies who were cared for at home.
- Avoid smoke-filled environments. Children who inhale second-hand smoke are at a higher risk for ear infections.
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How Long Will It Take My Child To Get Better
Your child should start feeling better within a few days after visiting the doctor. If its been several days and your child still seems sick, call your doctor. Your child might need a different antibiotic. Once the infection clears, fluid may still remain in the middle ear but usually disappears within three to six weeks.
How Can I Tell If My Child Has An Ear Infection
Most ear infections happen to children before theyve learned how to talk. If your child isnt old enough to say My ear hurts, here are a few things to look for:
- Tugging or pulling at the ear
- Fussiness and crying
- Fluid draining from the ear
- Clumsiness or problems with balance
- Trouble hearing or responding to quiet sounds
When To See Your Doctor
Dr. Nguyen-Huynh recommends seeing your doctor if:
- Your symptoms remain after two or three days, even if youve tried over-the-counter or home remedies.
- Your ear is very painful, or you have other symptoms that bother you.
- You have a fever over 104 degrees Fahrenheit
Other common conditions like temporomandibular joint dysfunction , can masquerade as earache infections. TMJ causes ear pain because your ear canal and jaw joint share a nerve.
If you have ear pain along with trouble chewing, talking or yawning, then you should see a dentist or TMJ expert to be sure youre treating the right condition, advises Dr. Nguyen-Huynh.
The good news? Hot and cold compresses and OTC pain relievers can also help relieve TMJ pain until you sort things out.
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 doesn’t have other symptoms.
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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.
How Is An Acute Middle Ear Infection Treated
Many doctors will prescribe an antibiotic, such as amoxicillin, to be taken over seven to 10 days. Your doctor also may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, or eardrops, to help with fever and pain.
If your doctor isnt able to make a definite diagnosis of OM and your child doesnt have severe ear pain or a fever, your doctor might ask you to wait a day or two to see if the earache goes away. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines in 2013 that encourage doctors to observe and closely follow these children with ear infections that cant be definitively diagnosed, especially those between the ages of 6 months to 2 years. If theres no improvement within 48 to 72 hours from when symptoms began, the guidelines recommend doctors start antibiotic therapy. Sometimes ear pain isnt caused by infection, and some ear infections may get better without antibiotics. Using antibiotics cautiously and with good reason helps prevent the development of bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics.
If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, its important to make sure your child takes it exactly as prescribed and for the full amount of time. Even though your child may seem better in a few days, the infection still hasnt completely cleared from the ear. Stopping the medicine too soon could allow the infection to come back. Its also important to return for your childs follow-up visit, so that the doctor can check if the infection is gone.
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Dont Use Cotton Swabs Or Foreign Objects
Cotton swabs may be able to clear the walls of your ears, but they also push the earwax even deeper. If you notice that using them causes you discomfort, you should stop using them altogether. Also, you may want to avoid using foreign objects, like keys, hairpins, or paper clips to scratch your ears. They can also push the earwax deeper, irritate the skin, and even break it.
How Is A Middle
Your health care provider will take a medical history and do a physicalexam. He or she will look at the outer ear and eardrum with an otoscope.The otoscope is a lighted tool that lets your provider see inside the ear.A pneumatic otoscope blows a puff of air into the ear to check how wellyour eardrum moves. If you eardrum doesnt move well, it may mean you havefluid behind it.
Your provider may also do a test called tympanometry. This test tells howwell the middle ear is working. It can find any changes in pressure in themiddle ear. Your provider may test your hearing with a tuning fork.
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How Do Adults Get Ear Infections
Adults with weakened immune systems and certain medical conditions are more likely to get ear infections. For example, if you have diabetes, it can cause an inflammatory response throughout your body including your middle and inner ear. Having skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis can increase the chance that you get an outer ear infection.
Treating Outer Ear Infections
The outer ear should be carefully cleaned. That should be followed by the application of antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory medications on your ear.
Antibiotics may be prescribed if your doctor determines that the infection is bacterial.
If the infection is fungal, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal medication.
If you have a viral infection, you may simply need to tend to the irritation on your ear and wait for the infection to resolve itself. Depending on the type of virus involved, more specialized treatment may be necessary.
To help prevent an ear infection of any kind, follow these tips:
- Make sure you dry your ears completely after swimming or taking a shower.
- Try quitting smoking, and limit or avoid secondhand smoke when possible.
- Manage your allergies by avoiding triggers and keeping up with allergy medications.
- Wash your hands thoroughly, and try to limit contact with people who have colds or other upper respiratory problems.
- Make sure your vaccines are up to date.
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What Causes A Middle
The middle ear connects to the throat by a canal called the eustachiantube. This tube helps even out the pressure between the outer ear and theinner ear. A cold or allergy can irritate the tube or cause the area aroundit to swell. This can keep fluid from draining from the middle ear. Thefluid builds up behind the eardrum. Bacteria and viruses can grow in thisfluid. The bacteria and viruses cause the middle-ear infection.
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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What Are Common Ear Infection Symptoms
While ear infection symptoms vary from person to person, there are a few common symptoms to look out for. These include:
- mild-to-moderate ear pain or discomfort
- increased feeling of pressure or tension in the ear
- pus-like release or drainage
- temporary hearing loss
In young infants or children who may not be able to verbalize these symptoms, you might notice increased fussiness or crying. You might also notice your child tugging or pulling at the ear.
Additionally, if your child shows feverish symptoms, this may also be a sign he or she has an infection worth checking out.
Unsure about the severity of the symptoms? Its best practice to visit your local urgent care for assessment and treatment 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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Virtual Appointment With Your Primary Care Doctor
You can also schedule a virtual appointment with the doctor that usually cares for you or your child. Theyll have the best information about your familys health and what treatments may be appropriate. If necessary, your childs primary care doctor can prescribe antibiotics and recommend additional treatments.
Keep in mind that if its only been a couple days since the ear infection started, you may not get a prescription for antibiotics. Your doctor will likely recommend treating the ear infection with OTC pain relievers and scheduling another appointment after a week or so. Its also possible that the doctor may want to see you or your child in person.
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:
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Who Is At Higher Risk For Ear Infections
- Children less than 5 years old, because they have shorter eustachian tubes.
- Children who attend daycare, because they tend to have more colds.
- Children with allergies.
- Children who are exposed to cigarette smoke. Smoke causes inflammation of the eustachian tube, making ear infections more likely.
- Children who were not breastfed. Breast milk has antibodies that help fight infections.
- Babies who are being bottle-fed, especially if they swallow milk while lying too flat. Milk can enter the eustachian tube and cause inflammation, which increases the risk of an ear infection. Children should be held upright while drinking a bottle. When they are old enough to hold their own bottle well, they should be taught to drink from a regular cup and no longer given a bottle.
- Children with cleft palates, as their eustachian tubes are often inflamed.
- Children of First Nations and Inuit descent, though its not clear why.
- Children with Down syndrome.
How Can I Prevent My Child From Getting An Ear Infection
- Wash your childs hands and your own often to keep germs away.
- If possible, breastfeed your baby.
- Avoid bottle-feeding your baby when they are lying down. Never put your baby to bed with a bottle.
- Transition your baby from a bottle to a cup by 1 year of age.
- Dont smoke, and keep your child away from any second-hand smoke. Exposure to smoke can increase the risk of ear infections.
- Ensure your child gets the pneumococcal vaccine .
- Ensure your child gets a flu shot every year.
- If your child has had many ear infections, try reducing the use of pacifiers . Using a pacifier may increase the risk of repeated ear infections.
When To Call Your Doctor
You should talk to your doctor or pediatrician about any ear infections and if you or your child has the following symptoms:
- Fever greater than 101 F
- Severe ear pain and drainage from the ear
- A stiff neck
- Pus or blood in the outer ear
Also call your pediatrician if your child is sluggish, cant stop crying despite efforts to soothe, shows signs of weakness, has a crooked smile, and/or is not walking straight.