Ear Infections: Why are my ears hurting so badly?
Otitis Externa, also known as ear infection, is a medical condition that leads to the inflammation of the external ear canal, which refers to the tube that connects the external ear and your eardrum. Otitis externa is also known as swimmer’s ear because the routine exposure to water can potentially make your ear canal to be highly vulnerable to inflammation.
What causes Otitis Externa?
Significant cases of otitis externa are usually as a result of bacterial and fungal infections in your ear canal. Consistent moist medium in your ear canal may serve as a perfect environment for the infective organisms to thrive. However, some of the factors that can potentially predispose you to this condition include:
- Regular use of ear devices such as earphones and hearing aids.
- Existing skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema that might result in an injury to the skin linings of your ear canal.
- Overcleaning your ear canal using cotton buds since this may lead to repetitive friction and subsequent injury to your ear canal skin linings.
Iatrogenic procedure complications such as the retention of irrigated water during the process of ear syringing.
- The accumulation of contaminated water in your ear during swimming, shower, or hot baths.
- Routine exposure to allergic chemicals as well as irritants such as hair dye or spray.
- The persistent digging or scratching of your external ear.
Who is at risk of contracting otitis externa?
First and foremost, it is important to note everyone is at risk of having otitis externa. However, certain individuals are at a relatively higher risk of having an outer ear infection. Generally, your risk is high if:
- You tend to have earwax to build up inside your ear.
- You are suffering from existing skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
How do I know if I am having an ear infection?
Patient with otitis externa may experience symptoms such as:
- Blocked ear or fullness of the ear
- Decreased hearing acuity
- A discharge of pus or liquid from the ear
- Itchiness in your ear canal
- Persistent earache, which may be severe
What is the best treatment for my ear infection or otitis externa?
Regardless of the treatment method adopted by your doctor, the goal is always to treat the underlying infection and alleviate the related ear symptoms. This implies that your doctor will first do a thorough ear cleaning, through the ear micro-suction technique and thereafter, medicate the ear using an effective ear drop antibiotics.
What is the micro-suction method of ear cleaning?
This is currently the simplest, clean, safest and arguably the most effective method to treat otitis externa. Earwax removal through micro-suction is usually conducted using a microscope to allow the doctor to see inside of your ears, along with a safe medical suction machine to help suck out the ear wax.
An instrument is connected to the suction device and can be seamlessly placed inside the ear canal. During the procedure, your doctor will only make contact with your earwax to safely remove blockage in a pain-free movement, without contact with your eardrum or ear canal walls.
Is micro-suction the best otitis externa treatment?
It is a widely accepted treatment across the entire medical profession as the most comfortable and safest otitis external treatment. During this process, the ear canal is only examined with the aid of a microscope which makes it an exceptionally safe and comfortable procedure, usually undertaken in a couple of minutes. Another advantage of this procedure is that it allows for a two-handed operation, further reducing the risks of human error.
Thanks to its enhanced stability and precision, micro-suction is always used in scenarios where ear irrigation is inappropriate and/or in patients having either ear perforations or previous ear surgeries. In circumstances of a swollen ear canal in patients, the doctor will insert either a wick or sponge into the ear through the use of a specialized clinic equipment.
Depending on your situation, your doctor will schedule an appointment with you preferably between 36 and 48 hours after the treatment to assess your progress. Depending on your progress, you may be needed to have a repeat ear micro-suction session to remove any debris build-up.
Who else will also benefit from the micro-suction ear cleaning?
- Patients using hearing aids
- Any patient having a build-up of ear wax-causing symptoms
- Patients experiencing anatomical variations of the ear canal
- Patients having an ear infection
- Children who can understand instructions and can also cooperate
It should be noted that the primary objective of manual cleaning of the ear through micro-suction is to physically eliminate the debris or excess ear wax that usually hamper the absorption of your ear drop medication. This promotes the healing process by effectively clearing any sort of infection.
How long does it take for my ear infection or otitis externa to heal?
On average, it takes between seven and ten days for your symptoms to improve. However, like any other type of treatment, some people may need an extended period for their symptoms to disappear.
Can you get antibiotic ear drops over the counter?
Unfortunately, you may only purchase the antibiotic ear drops from the pharmacy with a doctor’s prescription or from a clinic.
Do over the counter ear drops work for ear infections?
Over the counter ear medications can sometimes help with the pain and discomfort of your ear infection but it does not help to eliminate the bacterial and treat the underlying infection.
How can I take care of my ears after treatment?
- Use your ear drops according to your doctor’s prescription.
- Always ensure your ear canal is dry.
- Don’t swim during the ear infection period: And if you are a swimming enthusiast, always shake your ears very well to remove the accumulated water after swimming. You can also dry your ears with the help of a hairdryer which should be set at a very low temp and held at least 5cm away.
- Be cautious when bathing (consider the use of safe earplugs or shower caps).
Does ear candling work?
The answer is NO! Ear handling is never an effective and safe way to remove earwax.