Ear infections are often associated with kids, but adults can get them, too. Whether you’re a child or an adult, ear infections are no fun, especially when they become an ongoing problem.
Signs of an ear infection include:
- Pressure, discomfort, or mild pain in the ear
- Fluid or pus-like drainage from the ear
- Trouble sleeping
- Fussiness, especially in infants or children
- Low-grade fever
- Hearing loss
When these symptoms become persistent or recurring for at least three months, you have chronic ear infections.
Dr. Vandana Kumra brings her expertise as an ear, nose, and throat doctor to people living in New York City. In this blog, Dr. Kumra explains what’s usually to blame for the chronic ear infections she sees at ENT New York.
The anatomy of a problem
You can experience infections anywhere in the ear, but they most commonly affect the middle portion. These infections develop when the tube between the back of your nose and eardrum — known as the eustachian tube — becomes blocked.
In most cases, a virus is behind an ear infection. However, bacteria can also lead to problems. The primary types of infections that affect the middle ear include:
- Acute otitis media (AOM): fluid builds up behind the eardrum
- Otitis media with effusion (OME): infection gets treated, but fluid remains trapped
- Chronic otitis media with effusion (COME): fluid stays trapped or keeps coming back
- Chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM): often due to a perforated eardrum, involves persistent or recurring discharge from the ear
Chronic ear infections, such as COME and CSOM, require medical treatment to ease discomfort and avoid complications, including hearing loss.
When ear infections become chronic
Anyone can experience chronic ear infections, but they’re most common in children. Part of that is because infants and kids have shorter and narrower eustachian tubes. These structural differences make them more susceptible to clogging.
In addition to differences in eustachian tubes, children also have higher exposure rates to viruses and bacteria because of daycare centers and elementary school environments.
Other risk factors for chronic ear infections include:
- Upper respiratory infections, including the common cold and flu
- A family history of ear infections
- Having Down syndrome or a cleft palate
The best way to avoid chronic ear infections involves preventing an acute infection from occurring in the first place whenever possible. You can help reduce your risk of ear infection by avoiding cigarette smoke, not putting cotton swabs (or other items) in your ears, and washing your hands regularly.
However, if an ear infection sets in, Dr. Kumra can provide expert care to resolve your condition.
Finding relief from chronic ear infections
The first step to treating ear infections usually involves antibiotics. Depending on your infection and its severity, Dr. Kumra could recommend oral antibiotics, eardrops, or nose drops — or a combination of these medications.
When ear infections become chronic or fail to respond to antibiotics, Dr. Kumra could suggest surgery to address drainage issues or other factors contributing to your condition.
Are you searching for answers for chronic ear infections? Schedule a consultation with Vandana Kumra, MD, by calling 646-859-6136 or booking online today.