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Ear Infections

Dr. Chris Discolo

Ear infections are one of the most common reasons for visiting a physician and can greatly vary in severity. While most cases can be treated with medical therapy, some require surgery. We understand that any level of discomfort can be stressful, and we would be privileged to help you regain health and resume a normal day-to-day lifestyle.

Swimmers Ear

Swimmer’s ear (Otitis Externa) is a painful inflammation, irritation or infection of the ear canal caused by bacteria or fungi. Symptoms include redness, itchiness, drainage, swelling, fever, hearing loss, or pain which could spread to the neck and face.

Many factors can increase chances of developing swimmer's ear, including humid climates, harsh cleaning or injury of the ear canal, excess ear wax or foreign object in the ear canal, or dry ear canal skin, Eczema and other forms of dermatitis. If you are prone to ear canal infections, use ear plugs for swimming or bathing. After swimming, tilt your head to each side to help drain any water that may be in the ear canal.

When properly treated by a health care provider, swimmer's ear usually clears up within seven to 10 days. Treatment may include antibiotic or corticosteroid eardrops (to help decrease swelling) and/or pain medication.

Middle-ear Infection

Middle-ear infection (Otitis Media) is an infection behind the eardrum that develops when fluid is unable to drain from the middle ear. It can accompany allergies, a cold, or respiratory infection and symptoms may include pain, drainage, muffled hearing, or a sore throat. You are more likely to get an ear infection if you smoke, spend time in a daycare setting, have family history of infections, or have a weak immune system. If your symptoms don’t improve within 48 to 72 hours, please contact your health care provider.

More than 80 percent of children have at least one infection by three years old. Symptoms may include unusual irritability, difficulty sleeping, tugging or pulling of the ears, fever, ear drainage, loss of balance, hearing loss, or ear pain. If fluid remains in the child’s middle ear even after the infection has been resolved, a small ear tube may be surgically placed within the eardrum to improve hearing, relieve pressure, and prevent fluid from building up. Tubes usually fall out on their own after eight months to a year.

A middle-ear infection may be treated with antibiotics, pain medication, decongestants, nasal steroids, or auto-insufflation (pinch your nose and gently exhale to relieve pressure). If untreated, middle-ear infections can lead to permanent hearing loss from a hole in the ear drum or damage to one of the three middle ear bones, facial nerve paralysis, or infection in other parts of the head.

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction: The Eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the back of the nose, allowing pressure to equalize between the middle ear and the outside world. It also allows fluid to drain to prevent infections. Middle ear infections from Eustachian tube dysfunction are more common in children and typically normalize by ages seven to nine. However, problems can persist into adulthood. Symptoms range from persistent ear fullness to recurrent ear infections. Treatment can range from medication to surgery.

Cholesteatoma

Cholesteatoma is a benign, but locally destructive ingrowth of skin into the middle ear. It is associated with chronic ear infections and patients often have ear drainage and hearing loss. If left untreated, a cholesteatoma can lead to serious side effects. Treatment typically requires surgery.