You are here:

Ear infection resource

Affecting most people at some point in their lives, an ear infection is a very common affliction. However, ear infections can vary in severity and type, which means they are often treated on a case-by-case basis. Although most ear infections develop quickly and resolve themselves in a few days, some can linger and become incredibly debilitating over time. They are most common in children but can affect people of any age, which is why it is important to keep track of the signs and symptoms to help aid early diagnosis.

Ear infections can be categorised into four main types, as detailed below:

Otitis Externa

Also known as 'swimmers ear', otitis externa relates to an inflammation or infection of the external ear canal, sometimes as a result of water exposure that encourages the growth of bacteria. If left untreated, the condition can last for several weeks, but normally only affects one ear at a time. Symptoms including ear pain, temporary hearing loss and a pus-like discharge from the ear, with treatments usually involving a combination of eardrops and painkillers.

Otitis Media

A middle ear inflammation and often with infection, otitis media is most common in small infants, usually aged between six and 18 months. It is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection affecting the middle ear, due usually to an infection of the nose and/or throat. With symptoms of high temperatures, vomiting and lethargy, it shares plenty with traditional winter sicknesses, but parents who suspect otitis media in their children should keep an eye out for ear pain, temporary hearing loss and unresponsiveness on top of the usual cold symptoms.

Mastoiditis

Mastoiditis is an uncommon bacterial infection, but it can be very serious if not treated. More common in children than it is in adults, it develops when cells in the mastoid bone behind the ear become inflamed, usually as a result of an untreated middle ear infection. Symptoms include swelling behind the ear, a creamy discharge, headaches and a high temperature.

Labyrinthitis

Inflammation of the delicate labyrinth structure inside your inner ear is called labyrinthitis. The infection affects your hearing and balance, resulting in dizziness, vertigo and temporary hearing loss. Symptoms normally start severely and improve gradually over a few weeks, but some cases can be much longer-lasting, having a severe impact on the sufferer's ability to go about their everyday tasks.

Amplifon can provide advice for those looking to remedy hearing loss, but if you are suffering from other symptoms such as ear pain, headaches, dizziness or lethargy, it is important to contact your GP. For more information on ear infections, visit our individual pages.