Ear Infection - A guide to Hearing Loss

Most of us at some time or the other have experienced an ear infection. These can occur at any stage in life although they are more common in childhood. They may seem relatively innocuous but an ear infection can be a miserable experience in which sufferers experience earache, feeling unwell and hearing loss.

An ear infection usually lasts for only a few days and most of these clear up by themselves. But some cases require treatment to prevent the risk of complications such as a perforated ear drum although this is very rare.

There are two types of ear infection:

  • Otitis media (middle ear)
  • Otitis externa (outer ear)

These are discussed in more detail as individual subjects.

See otitis externa and otitis media pages.

Causes of ear infections

These are caused by a variety of factors which include:

  • Head cold
  • Sore throat
  • Exposure to germs or bacteria from an external source
  • Allergy to metal earrings
  • Fungi
  • Glue ear (children)

Symptoms of ear infections

These include a high temperature, muffled hearing, nausea and vomiting, earache (but not in all cases) and an unpleasant discharge from the ear.

In some cases it can lead to a burst ear drum but this is fairly uncommon. If it does occur then a perforated ear drum will relieve the pain and expel infected mucus. The ear drum will then heal itself of its own accord.

Treatment for ear infections

Most infections clear up after a few days and don’t require any treatment but there is the option of painkillers or antibiotics. Antibiotics are not usually prescribed because most ear infections clear up by themselves plus they do have side effects such as a rash.

But they can be prescribed for very young children under 2, a severe infection or one which has not cleared up after a few days. They are also advisable if there are complications such as glue ear or a perforated ear drum. If you are the parent of a child with an ear infection and are concerned in any way then speak to your GP.

Hearing Loss

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