Ear infections

Ear related infections and diseases

Ear infections, specifically middle ear infections, are common, but there are other ear diseases and issues that can cause pain and affect your sense of balance and hearing. While everyday ear pain causes are often harmless, the sooner they are recognised and treated, the better the chances of recovery.

What are some causes of ear infection?

Ear infection can be caused by:

  • Ear wax buildup
  • Illness, including a cold or flu
  • Allergies
  • Damage to inner ear tissue
  • Excessive moisture in the ear, especially if from polluted water
  • Excessive exposure to smoke

While these are common causes of ear infections, they are not the only reasons you might feel pain in your ear. Injury to the ear area, excessive or sudden exposure to loud noise and dramatic changes in air pressure can also cause pain and potentially damage. A perforated ear drum and a condition known as otosclerosis, in which a small bone in your ear gets stuck, can cause pain or temporary hearing loss.

What are the different types of ear infections?

The most common type of ear infection is a middle ear infection, also known as otitis media. It is often caused by colds and/or issues with the Eustachian tube, which helps regulate pressure within the ear. Middle ear infections are especially common amongst children.

Another often-seen type of ear infection is otitis externa, commonly known as Swimmer's Ear. Otitis externa occurs when there is an infection in the ear canal between the eardrum and the outer ear. 

There are many other ear infection types, too, including infectious myringitis (eardrum inflammation), mastoiditis (ear bone infection) and neuronitis (infection or inflammation of inner ear nerves).

What are the signs and symptoms of ear infections?

Ear infection symptoms can come in various forms, though some of the most common are throbbing pain, redness and ringing in the ears that could be tinnitus.

Other potential ear infection symptoms and signs include:

  • Difficulty sleeping (especially in toddlers)
  • Rubbing and pulling of the ears (especially in toddlers)
  • Fever
  • Decreased hearing
  • Impaired balance
  • Headache

How to treat ear infections

The best ear infection treatments often depend on the source of the issue. Regular cleaning and drying of the ears, especially if you are a frequent swimmer, can help prevent ear infections. If you are experiencing pain in your ear, there are several things you can try at home to ease your discomfort, including applying heat or coolness to the troublesome ear or sleeping on the opposite side to help it drain.

If you think you might have ear wax build up, do not try to clean your ear canal yourself, as you can do more harm than good. It's best to visit a doctor, as he or she will determine the cause of your pain and can then determine the best solution for your discomfort. 

Whatever it is you may be suffering from, make sure to see your specialist as soon as possible to avoid complications.

Experiencing an ear infection? Book an appointment

Get support and advice

Request an appointment

Book now

Take an online hearing test

Take the test

Find a clinic near you

Find a clinic