Ear infections are common in children under the age of three but they normally become less of a problem as you get older. Anyone can experience the pain, redness, and hearing loss that comes from an ear infection. In many instances, an ear infection will clear itself up within 72 hours, but fluid build-up can last much longer. In some people, ear infections happen on a regular basis and it is important to visit a doctor to find out the underlying cause and treat it before permanent damage is done. Let’s explore more about ear infections.
Inner Ear Infections
The ear is divided into three areas, the outer, middle, and inner ear. The middle ear is where most infections occur. In this area, which is located right behind the eardrum, there is a series of three bones that vibrate to allow us to hear. There is also a tube called the Eustachian tube that runs from your ear to your throat. Its purpose is to drain away excess fluid from your ear.
When a person has a cold, allergies or an upper respiratory infection, the fluid in the ear can become thicker. The bacteria from the cold or other illness can cause the tubes in your ear to swell, making it difficult for the fluid to drain. This fluid then becomes the perfect place for bacteria and viruses to take hold and grow, causing the ear infection.
Symptoms of an Ear Infection
In most cases, the person with a middle ear infection will feel sharp, stabbing pains in their ear. You may feel liquid draining from your ear. Infections are often accompanied by a fever, pain in both the ear and throat, a dulling of sound and sometimes a loss of balance. The ear may feel tender to the touch and if you are off-balance or dizzy, you may feel nauseous. In the majority of cases, the pain and other symptoms will clear up in 48 to 72 hours. In other cases, it is essential to see a doctor because an ear infection that remains untreated can lead to even greater problems, including hearing loss.
When to See a Doctor
Any infection that lasts past three days needs to be checked out by your doctor. Other times when a doctor visit is necessary is when there is a high fever, when the fluid does not drain after the infection clears up, if your immune system is compromised, or if you seem to be having ear infections on a regular basis. All of these conditions can mean you are dealing with a much greater problem that will need a doctor’s care.
In most cases, a doctor will prescribe an antibiotic, an antihistamine, or both to help clear the infection and dry up the fluid inside the ear. If a constant fluid pressure is a problem, the doctor may surgically insert small drainage tubes into the ear to help any fluids drain. These are only temporary and will eventually fall out on their own without the doctor having to take them out.
Let Us Help
If you believe you are dealing with an ear infection and it has not cleared up within 72 hours, contact us here at New York ENT. One of our specialists will take a medical history and give you a thorough exam to find out exactly what is going on inside your ear. We will discuss your treatment options with you and help get you back on the road to comfortable hearing.