There are three main types of ear infections: acute otitis media (AOM), otitis media with effusion (OME), and otitis externa, also known as swimmer's ear. The symptoms of these ear infections are very similar and can include: Earache. Fever.
Contact your provider if: You have swelling behind the ear. Your symptoms get worse, even with treatment. You have high fever or severe pain.
The bone that can be felt immediately behind the ear is called the mastoid. Acute mastoiditis is infection of this bone, caused by prior acute otitis media. The symptoms include reddened and swollen skin over the mastoid, fever, discharge from the ear and intense pain. This is a serious condition.
One difference is you have a higher fever with a bacterial ear infection. However, fevers can also happen with viral infections. Often, it's a bit of a waiting game. If the ear infection goes away on its own within a week or so, you can assume it was caused by a virus.
A painful tooth is sometimes mistaken for an ear infection. “That's because tooth pain often radiates up into the jaw, which is very close to the ear,” says Jamison. Mastoiditis. An inflammation of the mastoid bone, which is located behind your ear, can cause pain and be mistaken for an ear infection.
An instrument called a pneumatic otoscope is often the only specialized tool a doctor needs to diagnose an ear infection. This instrument enables the doctor to look in the ear and judge whether there is fluid behind the eardrum. With the pneumatic otoscope, the doctor gently puffs air against the eardrum.
Wang: In adults, they are usually associated with inflammation in the nasal cavity or the throat, such as a sinus infection, strep throat, cold or flu — or if the patient has acid reflux, bad seasonal allergies, is a smoker or is exposed to second-hand smoke.
A chronic ear infection may cause permanent changes to the ear and nearby bones, including: Infection of the mastoid bone behind the ear (mastoiditis) Ongoing drainage from a hole in the eardrum that does not heal, or after ear tubes are inserted. Cyst in the middle ear (cholesteatoma)
“If kids have an ear infection and are 2 and under, we treat those with antibiotics. Adults almost always need antibiotics because ear infections for adults are so rare. If children and adults have severe symptoms, a high fever, or both ears are infected, we would also recommend antibiotics,” she says.
You should consider seeking emergency care if you experience the following symptoms with ear pain: Stiff neck. Severe drowsiness. Nausea and/or vomiting.
Seek emergency care if you have any of the following symptoms: Pain in an ear with or without fever. Itching of the ear or ear canal. Loss of hearing or difficulty hearing in one or both ears.
If you have a middle ear infection that doesn't improve, you should see an ear, nose, and throat specialist (otolaryngologist) or a specialized otologist. Without treatment, middle ear infections can cause problems such as infection in other parts of the head, permanent hearing loss, and paralysis of a facial nerve.
DURATION: Inner ear infections tend to be longer lasting. The most severe symptoms generally subside within 1 week but complete recovery could take up to 2 to 3 months.
Antibiotics are a medicine prescribed by your doctor. If you're dealing with an ear infection caused by bacteria, you'll likely need antibiotics. They are the best way of quickly getting rid of a bacterial infection and preventing it from spreading to other parts of the body.
How Long Do Ear Infections Last? Middle ear infections often go away on their own within 2 or 3 days, even without any specific treatment. Often, there's fluid in the middle ear even after an infection clears up. If it's there for longer than than 3 months, more treatment might be needed.
Itching in your ear canal. Slight redness inside your ear. Mild discomfort that's made worse by pulling on your outer ear (pinna or auricle) or pushing on the little “bump” in front of your ear (tragus) Some drainage of clear, odorless fluid.
The bottom line
But antibiotics are necessary if bacteria are causing the ear infection. Amoxicillin is the go-to antibiotic for treating ear infections in adults and children.
Generally, an ear infection will improve within the first couple days and clear up within one to two weeks without any treatment.
Diagnosing Bacterial Infection
Tests that are frequently performed to help us with the diagnosis of a bacterial infection include a complete blood count and cultures of fluid that we are concerned about.
In rare cases, a more serious infection may develop, such as: Tearing of the eardrum. Spreading of infection to nearby tissues, such as infection of the bones behind the ear (mastoiditis) or infection of the brain membrane (meningitis) Chronic otitis media.
A very rare and serious complication of a middle ear infection is meningitis. This can occur if the infection spreads to the protective outer layer of the brain and spinal cord (the meninges). Symptoms of meningitis can include: severe headache.
As with your eyes, decreased circulation can also affect your ears, and chronic stress plays a big part in slowing blood flow. When you're stressed, the extra adrenaline can decrease or stop circulation in the inner ear, damaging or even destroying the essential tiny hair cells inside your ear.