Ear infections occur when bacteria or viruses infect the middle ear, which is the space behind the eardrum. If left untreated they can cause serious complications such as hearing loss, balance problems, ruptured eardrum, and more.

Ear Infection Causes

The most common causes of ear infections include bacteria, viruses, allergies and environmental factors. Bacterial and viral infections can enter the ear through the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the throat. Allergies and sinus infections may also cause inflammation that can lead to an infection and environmental factors such as smoke or water in the ears can also increase your risk. For infants and young children, improper bottle feeding technique can also be a cause of ear infections.

Ear Infection Symptoms

Ear infection symptoms include ear pain, fever and fluid buildup behind the eardrum. In children, tugging or pulling at the ear could indicate an infection. They may also experience difficulty sleeping and irritability. A doctor may look into the ear to check for signs of infection and fluid buildup.

Prevent Ear Infection

Fortunately, most ear infections can be treated with antibiotics or other medications prescribed by your doctor. However, prevention is still key. To reduce your risk of getting an ear infection, wash your hands regularly, avoid swimming or diving without protection and get flu shots each year to protect against upper respiratory infections that can lead to ear infections. With proper care and attention, you can stay healthy and minimize your risk of developing this painful condition.

To prevent ear infections, try to limit your child’s exposure to germs by washing their hands frequently and avoiding contact with people who are sick. Also make sure they get adequate rest and nutrition, which can help boost their immune system. However, ear infections are not always preventable. Be sure to visit your doctor for treatment if you do experience an ear infection.

Treat Ear Infections

Treatment for ear infections will depend on factors such as age, severity and whether it is caused by bacteria or virus. If it’s bacterial, antibiotics are typically prescribed to treat ear infections. For viral ear infection cases, medications such as pain relievers can help manage symptoms until the infection passes. Decongestants, including topical or oral decongestants such as Sudafed or Afrin can also help. You may want to also consider steroids, either nasal sprays or oral steroids.

If you have an underlying allergy that might be contributing to the eustachian tube issue, addressing the allergy either with avoidance or with anti-allergy therapy may be helpful for improving your ear function. Surgery is sometimes necessary if the infection has caused a buildup of fluid in the middle ear that needs to be drained. In some cases, the eardrum will need to be repaired as well.

Ear Tube Placement

In some cases, with chronic ear infections, surgery may be needed to insert tubes in the eardrum to relieve pressure and allow fluid drainage. Ear tube placement is a common procedure for children with recurrent ear infections. A pressure equalization tube helps relieve the symptoms of middle ear effusion and eustachian tube dysfunction by allowing fluid to drain more easily from your middle ear to your throat.

The tubes are inserted through the eardrum and stay in place for several months to allow drainage of fluid from the middle ear. Afterward, the tubes usually fall out on their own without any intervention. This can help reduce inflammation and improve hearing. The procedure is done under local anesthesia with little to no discomfort involved. This procedure can be performed quickly and easily in the NJ ENT office with no incisions. Find out more about who should get ear tubes.

Risks of Ear Tubes

Your doctor will review all risks related to the ear tube placement procedure. The biggest risk is that when the tube falls out or when the tube is retrieved, sometimes you could be left with a small little hole or a perforation in the eardrum. 99% of the time this will close up on its own but sometimes these eardrum perforations don’t close up on their own. Some of that depends on the age of the patient, the health of the patient, et cetera, as well as the health of the middle ear.

How We Can Help

The New Jersey Ear, Nose, and Throat Center team has performed thousands of procedures and has the experience to provide you with exceptional care. We use the latest technology and techniques to ensure that you receive the best possible outcome. Our doctors are experts in their field specializing in ear, nose and throat disorders and the related procedures and surgeries.

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