Outer ear infections refer to an infection that develops in the ear canal, which connects the outer and middle parts of the ear. The ear canal is also responsible for carrying the sound from outside of your ear to the eardrum. Outer ear infections are one of the most common causes of pain in the ears, and they happen to around one in ten adults. Most of the time, bacteria are the cause of outer ear infections. However, they may also be caused by viruses or yeast. ‘Swimmer’s ear’ is a term that is sometimes used to refer to this kind of infection, as bacteria can easily get into the ear canal when you are swimming. They can also sometimes be caused by allergic reactions.
Your ear canal might get infected for many different reasons. Most of the time, people get an ear infection due to bacteria getting into the ear canal. In rarer cases, they might be the result of a fungal infection. Outer ear infections can also be caused by viral illnesses such as the flu, or some types of shingles can also bring on an outer ear infection. Allergic reactions to products like soaps or shampoos may cause an ear infection.
While it is impossible to completely prevent any kind of bacteria from getting into the ear canal, there are some risk factors to be aware of. There are several things that might increase your risk of getting an outer ear infection. These include:
Minor injuries to the ear, for example, using cotton swabs regularly to clean inside your ears, or often wearing headphones that go inside the ear, can increase your risk of developing an outer ear infection. If you want to clean your ears, it is best to have this done by a trained professional at Ear Care Lab rather than risking injury by doing it yourself. Ear Care Lab offers a range of services including ear wax removal done in a clean, surgical setting.
When too much moisture gets into the ear, this can irritate and break down the skin in the ear canal. As a result, it is easier for fungi or bacteria to penetrate the ear canal, which leads to infection. Because of this, outer ear infections are often more common in people who do a lot of swimming and the condition is sometimes referred to as ‘swimmer’s ear‘.
Middle Ear Infections
If you have an infection in the middle ear, this can increase your risk of developing an outer ear infection. This is because pus builds up in the middle ear, where it is at risk of draining into the ear canal through an eardrum hole, which can lead to an infection in the outer ear.
People who have already suffered from an outer ear infection in the past, or people who are generally more prone to getting infections are at a higher risk.
Outer ear infections may be caused by several potential reasons. Understanding your risk can help you avoid this problem. Ask pediatric otolaryngology experts if your child is experiencing this.