There are three areas of the ear that can become affected by an infection. There is the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. An outer ear infection is more commonly known as swimmer's ear and is the least serious of the three. A middle ear infection is caused by fluid being trapped in the middle ear. An inner ear infection, also known as Labyrinthitis, is an inflammation of the inner ear from either bacteria or a viral infection. These can be categorized as acute, which is usually caused from a type of infection, most commonly after a respiratory infection or cold. The other category is chronic ear infection, or an infection that is persistent and may be the cause of a larger problem and may require further treatment by an ear specialist.
There are several symptoms of an ear infection and the type of symptoms can help diagnose what area of the ear is infected. Common symptoms include pain and pressure in the ear, hearing impairment, itching of the ear, and sensitivity to touch. A more serious ear infection may have symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, vertigo, and a thick yellow discharge from the ear. Ringing in the ears is also a common symptom and in some cases hearing loss can be a symptom as well.
Ear infections are most common in infants and young children but can affect people of all ages. Most commonly, an ear infection is caused when a throat infection, cold, or allergy attack causes fluid to be trapped in the middle ear. Severe pressure changes can also be a cause of an ear infection or ear pain that does not lead to an infection but feels like one. An inner ear infection is caused by a bacterial or viral infection in which the bacteria or virus invades the inner ear. Middle ear infections can also be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, causing fluid to become trapped in the ear. Pay close attention to ear infection symptoms following a throat or sinus infection or severe cold.
When symptoms of an ear infection occur, a visit to a doctor or ear specialist is usually required to diagnose the illness and begin treatment. A doctor will use an instrument called an otoscope to look into the ear to determine if the inner ear is swollen or red. For an outer ear infection an ear swab can be used to determine whether an infection is present. Another test can be administered to check for fluid in the middle ear in which a small amount of air is blown directly at the eardrum, as an eardrum with fluid will not move as much as a healthy one will. Tympanometry is another test that uses sound and air pressure to check for fluid in the middle ear. A hearing test can also be performed to test for an ear infection and in more serious cases, a CT scan of the head can also be administered.
If you are diagnosed with an ear infection, a medical professional will determine the best course of treatment. Depending where the ear infection is located, will determine what type of treatment is needed.
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