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Infections of the inner, middle or outer ear can affect you at any age, especially if you have a history of ear infections, sinus infections, allergies or exposure to tobacco smoke. Some ear infections, such as middle ear infections, may need antibiotic treatment, but many can get better without antibiotics.
When we think of an ear infection, it’s usually a middle ear infection, or acute otitis media. The middle ear refers to the part of the ear behind your eardrum. Anything that prevents fluid from draining from the middle ear, such as allergies, common cold or an upper respiratory infection, can cause a middle ear infection.
Children are more susceptible to middle ear infections because they have a shorter, more horizontal and narrower eustachian tube that drains fluid from the ear. Also, their adenoids can interfere with the eustachian tubes.
An outer ear infection, or swimmer’s ear, (otitis externa) affects the ear canal running from the eardrum, or tympanic membrane, to the outside of the ear. Fluid in the ear canal can provide an environment for a bacterial infection. An inner ear infection (otitis interna or labyrinthitis) affects the part just beyond the three tiny bones that transmit sound waves. It includes the snail-shaped, fluid-filled cochlea and helps with balance as well as hearing.
Norton Now includes same-day care options so you can get the care you need, when you need it and where you need it. Norton Community Medical Associates primary care offices are located across the Louisville and Southern Indiana area. Save your spot in line at a Norton Immediate Care Center or visit a Norton Prompt Care clinic for treatment of minor injuries or illnesses.
Use Norton eCare video visits or just answer a few questions online from anywhere in Kentucky or Indiana for care without coming into the office. Your provider can order drive-thru lab testing for you at Norton Healthcare Express Services if it’s needed.
A middle ear infection usually starts quickly and often causes:
Children and babies may also:
A medical provider may need to see you or your child to look for a red or bulging eardrum or fluid in the middle ear.
In the meantime, these suggestions may help you feel better before visiting our team:
While you may not be able to prevent an infection due to your ear anatomy, genetic factors, there are ways to lower risks for some infections, particularly those in the inner ear caused by colds and flu:
Most acute ear infections go away on their own and don’t require treatment. However, if your pain has lasted longer than two to three days and/or you have symptoms highlighted above, contact your health care provider.
Primary care providers may manage your condition using:
If your pain is severe, your doctor may need to drain fluid from your ear. You may be referred to an otolaryngologist, also known as ear, nose and throat or ENT doctor. Ear infections that go untreated can cause hearing loss.
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