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:
- Hearing loss
- Drainage from the ear
- Pain in the ear
- A feeling of fullness in the ear
Patients with otitis externa may also experience itchiness and pain to the outer part of their ear. An allergist or ENT specialist can diagnose these types of ear infections by looking into the ears with an otoscope. An otoscope allows the physician to see inside the ear canal and eardrum.
While most ear infections resolve on their own, some may need to be treated with antibiotics. After treatment, it’s important to know what causes recurring ear infections so you know how to prevent them. The allergists at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers are here to explain the different types of ear infections and how you can try to prevent them.
Acute Otitis Media
Acute Otitis Media is an ear infection where the middle ear (area behind the eardrum) becomes inflamed and infected. It is the most common type of ear infection and occurs more often in young children. AOM usually occurs when the eustachian tube which normally drains the middle ear is blocked by a cold (or an upper respiratory infection) or allergy. Fluid can then build up in the middle ear and this fluid can become infected.
People with allergies are at higher risk of developing this ear infection because allergies cause congestion and swelling of the nasal passages, throat, and eustachian tubes. Any condition that affects your sinuses can lead to ear congestion. So, treating these conditions beforehand will help prevent recurrent acute otitis media.
Otitis Media With Effusion
Otitis media with effusion occurs when the eustachian tube clogs and fluid cannot drain from your ears to the back of your throat. This condition is also most common in young children because of their shorter and more horizontal eustachian tubes. Also, children tend to contract more colds and other viral upper respiratory illnesses than adults. Respiratory illnesses and allergies can cause swelling of the Eustachian tube lining that leads to increased fluid.
Most people develop OME in winter or early spring when colds and allergies are more frequent. We recommend practicing good hygiene and eliminating your exposure to sick people to lower your chances of developing a cold. If you suffer from allergies it’s important to get tested and treated to better manage your allergies
Otitis externa causes inflammation of the external ear canal. This condition is often referred to as “swimmer’s ear” because repeated exposure to water can make the ear canal more vulnerable to inflammation. Usually, only one ear gets infected. A physician can prescribe ear drop medication to treat symptoms.
External otitis often can be prevented by keeping the ear dry as much as possible. If you’re a regular swimmer, we recommend using earplugs when swimming or wearing a swimming cap to cover and protect your ears from water.
For more information about your risk of ear infections or to treat your allergies, call (212) 686-4448, or book an appointment online with one of our allergy specialists today.