Types of Ear infection

Inner Ear Infections (labyrinthitis)

It results in inflammation of the inner structures

  • Symptoms: Hearing loss and vertigo
  • Causes: Often follows a viral infection such as a cold

Middle Ear Infections (otitis media)

In mild infections, fluid develops in the middle ear and is common in children. In more severe infections, pus may develop in the middle ear causing an acute infection. This may result in a perforation of the ear drum.

  • Symptoms: Ear pain, ear discharge, hearing loss and fever
  • Causes: Often develops from a cold where inflammation of the nose blocks up the Eustachian tube

Outer Ear Infections (otitis externa)

These are often caused by bacteria or fungus.

  • Symptoms: Ear pain, itch, discharge and blockage
  • Causes: Often follows indiscriminate cleaning especially after entry of contaminated water such as after a swim

Are ear infections serious?

Inner ear and chronic middle ear infections can result in permanent sensori-neural hearing loss. Chronic middle ear infections may also result in eardrum perforations that do not heal. Sometimes, middle ear infections may be the result of a cholesteatoma (a collection of squamous debris), a serious condition which can potentially result in major complications such as infections involving the brain

Treatment

The common outer ear infections are normally treated in the Clinic by thorough cleaning (aural toilet) under microscopy and the appropriate medications applied. Surgery may be required to eradicate chronic middle ear infections and cholesteatoma, as well as to repair eardrum perforations that do not close spontaneously (myringoplasty).

Middle ear surgery may require mastoidectomy which is removal of part of the ear bone known as the mastoid. A risk of such surgery is injury to the facial nerve which is located in the mastoid bone. However, in experienced hands, the risk of injuring the facial nerve is remote. Knowledge of such racial anatomical variations reduces the risk of facial nerve injury during mastoid surgery in our local patients (Low 1999)

Reference:
Low WK. Surgical Anatomy of the facial nerve in Chinese mastoids. ORL Journal 1999:61:341-4.

A/Prof Dr Dr Low Wong Kein

Senior Consultant Ear, Nose & Throat Surgeon
Sub-specialty in Otology & Neuro-otology

MBBS (S’pore), PhD (S’pore)
FRCSG, FRCSEd, DLORCSEng, FAMS (ORL)
GradDip (Acupuncture)

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