Understanding Ear infections
The ear is made up of three parts. The outer ear includes the part you can see and the canal that leads to the eardrum. The middle ear is separated from the outer ear by the eardrum and contains tiny bones that amplify sound. The inner ear is where sounds are translated to electrical impulses and sent to the brain. Any of these three parts can become infected by bacteria, fungi or viruses, in either the ear canal, or the Eustachian tube that connects the ear to the throat. Children are particularly prone to middle ear infections (otitis media). It is estimated that around four out of five children will experience a middle ear infection at least once.
Symptoms of ear infections
The symptoms of an ear infection depend on the type, but may include:
mild deafness or the sensation that sound is muffled
loss of appetite
itchiness of the outer ear
blisters on the outer ear or along the ear canal
noises in the ear, such as buzzing or humming
vertigo (loss of balance).
Causes of ear infections
Some of the many causes of ear infection and contributing risk factors include:
upper respiratory tract infections
sudden changes in air pressure, such as during airline travel
smaller than average Eustachian tubes
young age, since babies and children are more prone to ear infections
swimming in polluted waters
failing to dry the outer ear properly after swimming or bathing
overzealous cleaning of the ears, which can scratch the delicate tissues.