What is important About Recognising an Ear Infection?

Understanding just what is or is not an ear infection and how to deal with the symptoms, could prove to be very important in ensuring the continued health of your hearing. This human organ consists of three separate regions and each plays an important role in either the detection, or the onward conduction of sound while the innermost chamber is essential to the transmission of nerve impulses that are then interpreted by the brain. Anything that results in interference with or damage to the integrity of one or more of these aural regions may result in varying degrees of deafness.

The opportunities for bacteria or viruses to invade either the outer or middle chambers of the auditory system are numerous and the phenomenon is quite common. Swimmers, for instance, will often experience this type of problem in the outer or external ear, when swimming in non-chlorinated water. The condition, known as otitis externa, in which the ear canal becomes blocked with a discharge, then reduce the ear’s ability to transmit sound and the hearing becomes dulled. In fact, even moisture in the air may contain bacteria or fungi and this is very often what is responsible for an ear infection in infants. In practice this type of condition is the most common reason for an infant to require medical attention during the early years of his or her life. Babies can’t talk, of course, so the symptoms to watch for are reddening of the ear and a tendency to keep touching it.

A simple head cold may be all that is required to result in the condition known as otitis media. This time it is the middle chamber that is affected and the offending organisms gain access via the Eustachian tubes and will often spread to include the pharynx and laryngeal areas also. The condition can be extremely painful and the pressure of pus may build to the point where the eardrum is ruptured bringing both relief and deafness. Normally the damaged tympanum will heal naturally.

Both of these conditions will normally respond quite dramatically to treatment with antibiotics. Simple drops are often enough in the case of otitis externa while oral or occasionally systemic treatments will cure otitis media. The accompanying deafness will also tend to fade as the treatment begins to work. Inner ear conditions are known as labyrinthitis and characterised by often severe dizziness and nausea rather than deafness and will often clear up spontaneously.

It should be stressed, however, that what is true of an acute ear infection may not apply to repeated attacks. These could lead to a chronic condition and, untreated, to permanent hearing loss.

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