Ear infections are a frighteningly common affliction, especially among America’s young population: by five years old, 60% of our children will have experienced an ear infection. Ear infections can happen to anyone, though they are far more prevalent in developing bodies. But what is an ear infection? And how can it be treated?
What is an Ear Infection?
An ear infection is exactly as it sounds – a bacterial or viral infection, affecting the ear. Specifically, infection occurs in the part of the ear known as the ‘middle ear’. This is where the mechanical parts of your ear live – the eardrum, the three bones that transmit the sounds you hear, the cochlea and the eustachian tubes.
Ear infections tend to occur as a side effect of a larger infection such as the common cold, and can present a variety of symptoms including headaches, pain behind the ear, muffled hearing and even fluid leakage through the ear drum.
How Do You Treat an Ear Infection?
Much like flus or the common cold, there is no such thing as a cure for an ear infection – unless you’re counting time. Instead, there are several ways you can alleviate the symptoms of an ear infection, while your body naturally fights off the invading microorganisms and brings you back to health.
Your ear pain is caused by swelling of the cochlea and eustachian tubes, which in turn put pressure on nerves surrounding your ear. You can reduce the swelling by holding a warm cloth to your ear, or simply dose yourself with aspirin or cough medicine to take the edge off the pain. There are also ear drops with painkilling effects which you can buy over the counter at your local CVS or pharmacy.
Ultimately though, if the pain from an ear infection persists for longer than a week, or the pain resulting from it becomes particularly severe, you should seek professional help for further information. If you’re concerned about your hearing as a result of having suffered an ear infection, take some time to find a hearing care specialist near you. Otherwise, book in with your physician and ask for advice.
How Can You Prevent an Ear Infection?
As the saying goes, prevention is the best form of cure – and there are more ways to avoid ear infections than you might initially think. Cleaning your hands and regularly washing your face is an excellent start for preventing general illness in the first place, reducing the chance of picking up a virus or bacterial strain by touch.
However, ear infections are more likely to occur in those who smoke, and links have been made between ear infections and second-hand smoke! Try to avoid spending too much time near smokers in colder weather.