Ear infections are a common ailment, especially in children. While usually nothing to worry about, those that suffer from chronic ear infections may experience frequent pain, a reduced quality of life and may be at risk of more serious health complications, like hearing loss.
Ear Infection Symptoms
Ear infections occur when bacteria or a virus infect and trap fluid behind your eardrum in the middle ear. Common symptoms include:
- Ear pain that can range from mild to severe
- Fluid draining from the ear
- Muffled hearing or temporary hearing loss
Children with ear infections may seem fussier than usual or tug at their ears. If a person experiences more than three ear infections in six months or four within a year, they are considered to have chronic ear infections.
Chronic Ear Infections May Increase Your Risk of Hearing Loss
Most times, any hearing loss that occurs with an ear infection is temporary and returns to normal as the infection clears up. However, research has shown that having chronic ear infections may increase your chances of developing permanent hearing loss.
In one study, hearing tests were administered to 123 patients with unilateral chronic otitis media (ear infections in one ear). Researchers found a highly significant association between chronic ear infections and experiencing permanent sensorineural hearing loss.
Possible Treatment Options
If you or your child has regular ear infections, seeking treatment is essential to avoid damage to your ears. Treatment will vary slightly depending on the cause.
Problems with the Eustachian tube make chronic ear infections more likely, particularly in children, as theirs are smaller and not fully formed. This makes it easier for fluid to get trapped. In this case, doctors will often recommend ear tubes to drain fluid from the ear and prevent future infections.
Chronic sinusitis and allergies are two other common conditions that make you prone to chronic ear infections. In this case, taking allergy medications or regularly rinsing your sinuses with a saline solution should help to reduce the frequency of ear infections.
Home Remedies for Ear Infections
While you need medical treatment for chronic ear infections, you can take steps to manage your or your child’s symptoms at home and feel more comfortable, such as:
- Applying a warm cloth to the infected ear
- Taking over-the-counter ear drops or medications like acetaminophen from Phoenix Pharmacy or other local drug stores
- Avoiding sleeping on the infected ear
For more information or to schedule an ear exam, contact Arizona Desert Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists today.