Otitis Externa - A guide to Hearing Loss

This is a type of infection which affects the outer ear. The skin in the outer ear becomes sore and inflamed which results in a reduced ability to hear.

This is a very common type of ear infection which usually happens for no apparent reason.

Another ear infection which affects the middle ear is otitis media.

Causes of otitis externa

This can be caused by the following:

  • Hot, humid weather or ‘jungle heat’.
  • Swimming: much more common in swimmers due to the presence of water in the ear. Excess water can inflame the skin of the ear canal. Known as ‘swimmer’s ear’.
  • Skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
  • Ear syringing/ear irrigation.

It can also be caused by any number of substances that enter the ear, for example, shampoo, gel spray, soap etc. These products make your ear itchy which you then scratch: this damages the skin which results in an inflammation and infection. You then scratch this again which makes it worse and so on.

It is one of those conditions which some people are more prone to than others.

Symptoms of otitis externa

These include itching, pain, foul-smelling discharge from the ear and pain. You will also notice that your hearing feels ‘dulled’ or muffled which causes temporary hearing loss.

Treatment for otitis externa

If your ear infection is severe then antibiotics will be prescribed. If not then ear drops or a spray will clear up any infection. These contain a steroid to reduce the inflammation and an antibiotic to remove the infection.

Painkillers such as Ibuprofen will also help. Another option is to place a hot flannel or a ‘wheaty bag’ against your ear to sooth the pain.

If the discharge from your ear is heavy then use cotton wool balls to soak this up but avoid pushing one of these into your ear. Don’t use cotton wool buds as these will cause further damage to the inflamed areas. Your GP will be able to advise you on suitable treatments.

Hearing Loss

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