Ear Infection Q & A
What are the symptoms of an ear infection?
An ear infection typically causes ear pain and discomfort. Other symptoms include:
- Temporary hearing loss
- Sleeping trouble
- Irritability in children
- Tugging on the ears in children and babies
Patients who are concerned that they or their child may have an ear infection should be evaluated by a physician or other competent health care provider. The doctor’s at Ear Nose and Throat Specialists of Connecticut are also available for consultation when accurate diagnosis and treatment is needed.
What complications can occur with ear infections?
Ear infections, if left untreated, can lead to:
- Trouble hearing
- Permanent hearing loss
- Rupture of the eardrum
- Inflammation of the middle ear
- Tissue growth behind the eardrum
- Damage to the small bones in the middle ear
Are ear infections contagious?
Ear infections aren't contagious, but the underlying cold or virus that possibly led to an ear infection can be contagious.
How are ear infections treated?
While antibiotics are sometimes used to treat ear infections, they only help bacterial infections. However, doctors can't tell the type of infection simply by looking in the ears, so the severity is considered when choosing treatment.
Minor ear infections can clear on their own. Patients who show signs of a bacterial infection, such as ear infections that don't clear after 48-72 hours or infections with a high fever, may need antibiotic treatment. Outer ear infections are treated with antibiotic ear drops rather than an oral antibiotics.
Patients who have chronic ear infections may need additional treatment to deal with the underlying health issue. Tubes in the ears to equalize air pressure and prevent fluid from forming or medications to treat other health conditions, like sinus infections or allergies, can help stop chronic ear infections.
Can ear infections be prevented?
Patients can prevent ear infections by avoiding other types of infections, including cold and flu infections. Drying the ears using an over-the-counter ear drying drop after swimming or bathing also help. Patients shouldn't use cotton swabs to dry the ears, as this can cause ear wax to get impacted.
Why do some children seem to get many ear infections?
Anatomy and other underlying factors can make some children more prone to getting ear infections. Some of these factors include:
- Male gender
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
- Seasonal allergies
- Winter season
- Frequent colds
Children who get frequent ear infections are called "otitis prone" and may benefit from ear tubes not only to decrease ear infections, but to also maintain good hearing, which is critical for good speech and language development. For patients wondering if their children need tubes, Dr. Astrachan and Dr. Hecht at Ear Nose and Throat Specialists of Connecticut can help. Call or schedule an appointment online.