There are many kinds of ear infections, and all of them may cause temporary hearing loss. However, middle ear infections are the most common cause of temporary impairment in hearing.
Often known as acute otitis media, a middle ear infection causes ear discomfort and inflammation. Fluid may accumulate in the air-filled area behind the eardrum during or after the initial infection, causing otitis media with effusion. When this happens, it may impair the mobility of the eardrum and middle ear bones, leading to hearing loss.
While the symptoms may alarm those who fall ill, there will always be good news. If appropriately treated, the infection will clear, the ear discomfort will subside, and your hearing capacity will return to normal. However, it’s essential to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatments so you know when to seek medical attention.
What Causes Middle Ear Infections?
Middle ear infections usually occur during or after viral upper respiratory illnesses, particularly the common cold. Inflammation and swelling are caused by the infection at the back of the throat, including the anatomical component known as the Eustachian tube. This tube links the neck to the middle ear, and as it swells, it loses its ability to equalize pressure in the middle ear area.
This pressure builds up in the small middle ear region, preventing normal secretions from draining correctly. The negative pressure and excess fluid may cause ear discomfort, pressure, dizziness, and temporary hearing loss.
Anyone who has a cold may have a middle ear infection. However, younger children are much more susceptible to middle ear infections for two reasons. Their immune systems are less developed, for starters, making it more difficult to fight off respiratory infections. Second, their Eustachian tubes are more horizontal, making fluid drainage more difficult.
Common Symptoms of Middle Ear Infections
It may be difficult to identify symptoms in infants and toddlers because they cannot vocally convey ear discomfort or irritation. If you suspect you or your child has a middle ear infection, check for the following symptoms:
- Scratching or tugging at the ears on a regular or frequent basis (indicating pain or discomfort)
- Response time to speech and other noises has been slowed (indicating trouble hearing)
- Secretions from the ear
These symptoms are possible in older children, teenagers, and adults:
- A persistent earache
- A sensation of ear pressure
- Difficulty comprehending speech
- Dizziness or a sense of unbalance
- Vomiting or overall nauseousness
- Occasionally, a sensation of “dual hearing” occurs.
What Is the Best Way to Treat Ear Infections?
A middle ear infection is often treated in two stages: first, the discomfort is treated, and then, if symptoms do not improve, antibiotic medicine is prescribed to combat the infection. Doctors may delay prescribing antibiotics since an otherwise healthy individual may battle the illness independently, allowing them to avoid drug side effects and other dangers.
A doctor typically prescribes amoxicillin to treat a middle ear infection. This antibiotic is taken orally and acts to kill the infection. The inflammation will subside with time, and the Eustachian tubes will adequately ventilate the middle ear.
People with middle ear infections are vulnerable to repeated infections until the backed-up fluids have gone. Even if the symptoms have gone, it is critical to complete the entire course of antibiotics. Most people will claim that they can hear better many days after returning to regular activities. That indicates that the fluid buildup has been addressed.
If your condition worsens or does not get better, you should see your doctor. If your ear infection is persistent or does not seem to be improving, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. However, if antibiotics are recommended, you must complete the entire course. Surgery may be a possibility if your ear infection does not clear up with standard medical treatments or if you have a string of ear infections in a short period.
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