Dr.Sumit Chattopadhyay

Guide to Ear Infections 


Ear infections in adults fall into three categories, depending on the part of the ear they affect:  

  • Inner ear  
  • Middle ear or otitis media  
  • Outer ear or ear canal infection 

They can be either bacterial or viral infections. 

Inner ear sends information about sound to your brain. Infections of the inner ear are primarily viral. 

The middle ear includes the eardrum and the space behind it where three bones help conduct sound waves. Middle ear infections are most common as blockage and fluid trap occur. 

Outer ear infections affect adults more often than children and can be painful without treatment. 

Ear infections can be painful due to swelling or fluid build-up and clear up on their own. 

Ear Infection Symptoms 

Common symptoms of ear infections include: 

  • Ear pain 
  • Difficulty in hearing 
  • Loss of balance 
  • Headache 
  • Elevated temperature 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Watery discharge from ears  

Usually, ear infections last fewer than three days, but they can persist for up to a week. 

What Causes an Ear Infection? 

Ear infections can be caused by a variety of factors, including viruses or bacteria that invade the ear canal or middle ear. The resulting inflammation and fluid build-up can cause ear pain, which can range from mild to severe. 

Other causes include: 

  • Cold  
  • Sinus Infections 
  • Mucus Secretion 
  • Change In Air Pressure  
  • Allergies 
  • Smoking  

With the current work-from-home scenario, increased usage of earphones can also lead to ear infections. 

Who Are at Risk for Ear Infections?  

Factors increasing the risk of ear infections are: 

  • Family history 
  • Cold 
  • Allergies  
  • Altitude changes 
  • Conditions that require long term antibiotic use 
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke 
  • Diabetes 
  • HIV 

Visit your ENT specialist if you feel any discomfort in your ear. 

How Do Doctors Diagnose Ear Infections? 

  • Your doctor will ask about your medical history and symptoms  
  • They will feel your lymph nodes and look in your ears with an otoscope, a lighted device with a magnifying lens  
  • They may check to see if your eardrum moves, which helps them determine if it is healthy 
  • Your doctor also might conduct a hearing or imaging test to rule out other conditions. 

Ear Infections Treatment 

  • Viral inner ear infections can be treated by getting adequate rest, staying hydrated, and taking pain medications.  
  • If a bacterial infection is a cause, doctors may prescribe oral antibiotics or antibiotic ear drops for ear infections. 
  • Middle ear infections or the presence of fluid in the ear can be treated by antibiotics. 
  • Sometimes, the doctor may perform a minor procedure to place tubes in the affected eardrum to drain the fluid.  
  • You can often manage outer ear infections with antibiotic ear drops and pain relievers.  
  • Your doctor may also need to clean the ear canal to allow topical treatments to work. 

How Can We Prevent Ear Infections? 

The following measures can prevent ear infections: 

  • Getting your annual flu vaccinations 
  • Practicing good handwashing and hygiene techniques 
  • routinely disinfecting earbuds and hearing aids 
  • Balanced diet and Exercise 
  • Avoid smoking. 

What Are The Complications of Ear Infections? 

Ear infections can also spread to other parts of the ear, head, or neck without effective treatment.  

Ear infections can also cause: 

  • Mastoiditis (Bone infection behind the ear) 
  • Permanent hearing loss 
  • Persistent balance issues 
  • Long-term vertigo (Sense of spinning even you are still) 
  • Brain abscess (Pus filled swelling) 


Ear infections are a common health problem, particularly among children. They are caused by bacteria or viruses and can result in symptoms such as ear pain, fever, and difficulty hearing. Treatment for ear infections typically involves antibiotics or pain relievers, and in some cases, surgery may be necessary. Preventive measures, such as practicing good hygiene, avoiding smoking, and getting vaccinated, can help reduce the risk of developing an ear infection. If you suspect that you or your child has an ear infection, it is important to see your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.