What are chronic ear infections?
Chronic ear infections are recurring ear infections that can be caused by several things. If an ear infection does not heal by itself or keeps returning, it will be classed as a chronic ear infection. This condition can escalate to cause hearing loss, a ruptured eardrum or in extreme cases, nerve paralysis. Anyone with a chronic ear infection must seek medical help.
Children are more likely to suffer from ear infections than adults. This is due to their Eustachian tubes (the tube that drains fluid from the middle ear) being smaller and more horizontal compared to adults. When an adult suffers an ear infection, it tends to be caused by an upper respiratory infection or a swimming-related injury. Other causes of chronic ear infections include sinus issues, allergies, and bacterial infections caused by colds or flu.
It is sometimes the case that symptoms of recurring, chronic ear infections may be less severe than those of an acute case. They also may come and go intermittently. Symptoms include:
- Ear pressure
- Pus or liquid leaking from the ear
- Sleep issues
- Reduced hearing
- Pain in the ear
- Tinnitus (a ringing sound in the ear)
- In infants, loss of appetite, irritability and tugging on the ear
Home remedies may include a warm compress on the ear and over the counter pain relief medications. When you see the doctor, they will examine your ear. They may take an ear swab or arrange some blood tests to check for bacteria, as well as further tests such as a CT scan to see if an infection has spread. Your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics. These will either be in tablet or ear drop form. Surgery may be required if the chronic ear infection is severe or has spread.
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly to stop bacteria spreading
- Do not smoke and avoid second-hand smoke
- Keep up to date with vaccinations
- Ensure an ear infection is completely gone after the treatment
- Keep the ear scrupulously dry until the ear infection has settled. This includes avoiding swimming and also protecting your ear whilst having a bath or showering, such as with an earplug or cotton wool coated in Vaseline.