Swimmer's Ear (Otitis Externa)
Outer ear infections, commonly known as swimmer's ear, can occur year round. They are associated with swimming (as the name implies), but may occur without prior water exposure. Symptoms of acute otitis externa include severe pain and tenderness when the ear is touched, fever, decreased hearing due to swelling in the ear canal, and sometimes drainage from the ear. Treatment is normally with topical medications (ear drops).
Chronic external ear infections may be caused by an underlying skin condition (like eczema or psoriasis) or a fungal infection. Debris that builds up withint the ear canal needs to be completely removed or else the ear drops will not work.
Middle Ear Infection (Otitis Media)
Otitis media means “inflammation of the middle ear,” as a result of a middle ear infection. It can occur in one or both ears. Otitis media is the most frequent diagnosis for children who visit physicians for illness. It is also the most common cause of hearing loss in children. Although otitis media is most common in young children, it occasionally affects adults.
Blockage of the eustachian tube during a cold, allergy, or upper respiratory infection, and the presence of bacteria or viruses lead to a build-up of pus and mucus behind the eardrum. This infection is called acute otitis media. The build-up of pressurized pus in the middle ear causes pain, swelling, and redness. Since the eardrum cannot vibrate properly, hearing problems may occur. Sometimes the eardrum ruptures, and pus drains out of the ear. More commonly, however, the pus and mucus remain in the middle ear due to the swollen and inflamed eustachian tube. This is called middle ear effusion or serous otitis media. Often after the acute infection has passed, the effusion remains lasting for weeks, months, or even years. This condition allows frequent recurrences of the acute infection and may cause difficulty in hearing.
If your child experiences multiple episodes of acute otitis media within a short time, or hearing loss, or chronic otitis media lasts for more than three months, your physician may recommend referral to an otolaryngologist for placement of ventilation tubes, also called pressure-equalization (PE) tubes. This is a short surgical procedure in which a small incision is made in the eardrum, any fluid is suctioned out, and a tube is placed in the eardrum. This tube eventually will fall out on its own and the eardrum heals. There is usually an improvement in hearing and a decrease in further infections with PE tube placement.
If you suspect you or your child may have an ear infection, please contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our providers.