The human ear has three components: the outer ear and external auditory canal, the middle ear, and the inner ear. “Swimmer’s Ear” is an infection of the external auditory canal in which water trapped in the external ear canal results in the growth of fungus and bacteria leading to inflammation and pain. The most common ear infections particularly in children involve the middle ear, the portion of the ear behind the ear drum. Children have narrow eustacian tubes and so fluid can become trapped behind the ear drum and viruses and bacteria can thrive and cause infection and pain. Anyone who has seen a child screaming in the middle of the night will recall how much pain and suffering is caused by ear infections.
Since many ear infections occur in children, the only symptom may be fussiness or crying. Children also tend to pull at the affected ear which can be a clue to the presence of an ear infection. Olden children and adults may notice hearing loss in the affected ear. Fever is also a common feature of ear infections.
The most important treatment for ear infections is pain relief. Most children with ear infections are treated with antibiotics and patients with swimmer’s ear are treated with antibiotic/antifungal drops placed directly into the ear canal.