All You Need To Know About Ear Infections
When it comes to auditory issues, many people are fortunate enough to go through life without any major issues—maybe a few hearing tests in Pottstown, but little more than that. However, one of the common ear issues that even an otherwise healthy person may encounter is ear infections. This is mainly because people tend to get them as children. These are more common at this age, after all. However, not everyone fully understands what this entails. So, before you go to an audiologist in Pottstown, here are some of the fundamentals you should know.
Ear infections, also known as acute otitis media, are infections of the middle ear. This is the space that lies behind the eardrum and holds the ear’s small vibrating bones. As mentioned, these are more common in children, and in many cases, they can pass on their own. In this case, treatment is mainly concerned with pain management and keeping track to see if things progress further. Antibiotics are commonly used also. In some cases, though, if repeated ear infections happen, this can have bigger concerns.
Generally, when an infection happens, the signs are relatively quick. In children, some of the common signs of trouble include:
- Ear pain
- Issues with sleeping
- Generally fussiness
- Inability to respond to sound
- Fluid draining from the ear
- Balance problems
For adults, common symptoms include:
- Ear pain
- Fluid draining from the ear
- Hearing problems
So, what exactly causes an infection to take hold? This is caused by a virus or bacteria in the inner ear, generally stemming from another type of illness. This can include a cold, the flu, or allergies. Why these? Because they swell your nasal passages, your throat, but most importantly, the eustachian tubes. These tubes run from the middle ear to the back of the throat. When working normally, these regulate air pressure, refresh air, and drain secretions out of the middle ear. When they get swollen, fluids can build up here, leading to infection. In children, these are harder to drain, which explains why infections can happen more frequently due to clogs.
There is another element you want to factor into all this, the adenoids. These are two small tissues in the back of the nose that play a role in immune activity. These are close to the eustachian tubes, so if they swell, they can block the tubes also, increasing the risk of infection. Again, children are at a higher risk since their adenoids are larger than adults, relative to the rest of their body.
As we mentioned before, age is generally the largest factor when it comes to ear infection risk. Children are at the highest risk levels between 6 months and two years. However, these aren’t the only factors that play a role. If children are cared for in group settings like a daycare, they have a higher chance of getting ear infections. Why so? It’s simple; they’re more likely to get exposed to general infections, which can create concurrent ear infections. In infants, a bigger risk factor is drinking from a bottle, particularly if the baby is lying down.
We should also mention children with cleft palates. This group is more likely to get ear infections since they have different muscles and bone structures in key areas. In turn, these make it harder for eustachian tubes to drain.
There are some environmental factors as well that can play a role. Ear infections tend to happen most commonly during winter and fall. Those with seasonal allergies may have a higher risk of ear infections when the pollen count gets high. Bad air quality also can increase risk, whether it’s through air pollution or secondhand smoke.
Most of the time, health issues don’t spiral out of ear infections unless they happen repeatedly. In that case, issues may include impaired auditory capacity. This can come and go in mild amounts with most infections, but normally, it stops when the infection clears. However, the more frequently it happens, the more potential loss. If the eardrum gets damaged, that loss could even be permanent. This could include an eardrum tear. Most of the time, this heals in 72 hours at maximum. There are exceptions that require surgery, though.
If the infection is left untreated, it could also spread to other tissues nearby. This can lead to a variety of issues, including bone damage and, in extremely rare cases, meningitis. A hearing clinic in Pottstown can help keep things from getting out of control. There are also some side-complications. Hearing issues as a youth can impact speech development.
With this in mind, what can you do to keep you and your family free of ear infections? A lot of this stems from avoiding the conditions that lead to infections in the first place, like the cold and other illnesses. This means making sure your kids wash their hands and try to minimize contact with shared surfaces. When coughing or sneezing, teach them to use the crook of their arm. Childcare settings with fewer kids are preferred as well.
For babies, breastfeed if possible. Breast milk has unique antibodies that can help minimize infection in some cases. If bottle-feeding is your only option, try to hold your baby upright. Don’t put a bottle in the crib with the infant. At any age, you want to avoid any secondhand smoke in the home as well. Lastly, if you’re still concerned about your child, consider talking to your doctor about what vaccinations are available. Some of these can help prevent ear infections.
Audiology in Pottstown has gone a long way with even the most minimal of ear issues. Be sure to get checked on a regular basis to keep you and your loved ones healthy.