Ear infections are a common occurrence among children but can affect people of all ages. There are different kinds of ear infections with their own causes and symptoms. Some cases respond well to antibiotics while others will resolve on their own. Understanding the difference between types of ear infections will ensure you seek the right treatment when needed.
Types of Ear Infections
There are three main types of ear infections.
Acute Otitis Media
This infection in the middle ear is the most common type of ear infection in children. Eustachian tubes connect the middle ear and the upper throat and are responsible for regulating pressure and draining fluid. The Eustachian tubes in children are smaller and can become easily blocked. Fluid can then build up behind the eardrum and an infection can occur. This leads to an earache, discharge from the ear and a fever.
Otitis Media with Effusion
This occurs when there is a buildup of fluid in the middle ear without an infection. Traditional symptoms of an ear infection are usually present with this type of middle ear condition. When this condition becomes chronic it can lead to hearing loss.
Known more commonly as swimmer’s ear, this outer ear infection occurs when water becomes trapped in the ear and bacteria grows in the ear canal.
Ear Infection Causes
Ear infections can be caused by bacteria or a virus. Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae are the most common bacterial causes, and a cold or the flu are the most common causes of a viral infection.
Use of Antibiotics
Antibiotics are only effective at treating an active bacterial infection. This course of treatment is usually beneficial for acute otitis media and swimmer’s ear, but since otitis media with effusion occurs following an infection, an antibiotic cannot resolve a buildup of fluid.
Frequent antibiotic use is not recommended. If you or your child develops recurring ear infections, different treatment options may be needed. To learn more about the best treatment for your type of ear infection or to schedule an appointment with an experienced hearing professional, contact Timpanogos Hearing & Balance today.