Anyone who has been plagued by an ear ache caused by an ear infection knows that the pain can be unbearable. Ear infections, for the most part, afflict infants and small children, but can occur in adults for various reasons and sometimes with no warning. If you or your child is experiencing an earache, causing pain and affecting your daily lives, there may be treatments and therapies available at Advance Health and Wellness that are music to your ears.
Ear infections happen in the middle ear. The middle ear is comprised of the internal portion of the ear located at the end of the canal, at the ear drum. Its main chamber is called the Tympanic Cavity. This cavity is where ear infections develop. The middle ear is also home to the auditory tube, that affects your ability to hear, and connects the Tympanic and nasal cavities. Since this tube connects your ears to your nose, ear infections are often paired with sinus and nasal problems.
Infections usually occur during a bout of the flu or common cold, but can also accompany various types of respiratory infections. Because the middle ear is connected to the upper respiratory tract through the back of the nose and the sinus cavity, germs can travel through these channels and eventually end up in the Tympanic cavity. Once there, the germs begin to grow. This is when the ear infection begins. Because these germs are inside a part of the ear that is not visible from the outside, it is difficult to realize the infection has begun until you are experiencing pain. Eventually, redness and irritation deep inside and around the ear canal develops.
The reason that ear infections can so easily accompany nasal and sinus infections is similar to the reason that mold grows in a basement. The Tympanic cavity, like a basement, is usually kept dry and clean because of a consistent air flow. However, when the passage of air is blocked, moisture is allowed to accumulate. In a basement, heat from a clothes dryer or water heater will heat up the stagnant moisture, making the area a breeding ground for mold and mildew. In the case of your ear, the appliance heat is your body heat, and the mildew is the germs and infection.
Because ear infections in adults are often accompanied by the flu, common cold, or respiratory infections, it is important to get rid of the infection before more complicated issues set in. More often than not, ear infections are the result of a virus, so most treatments are focused on relieving only the symptoms. In severe cases doctors will treat the infection as if it were bacterial, and prescribe antibiotics. With both types of medication, however, an ear infection may not go away. If it is indeed viral in nature, viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics. Ignoring an ear infection, or improperly treating it, can result in hearing loss.
Sometimes, children or adults experience chronic ear infections, in which case tubes can be placed in the ear canal that facilitate a smoother passage of fluid out of the ear in case of infection. In cases involving these reoccurring infections, however, treatments like those available at our practice may be able to help without the cost and risks of surgery.