- Outer ear infections (swimmer’s ear): An outer ear infection (otitis externa) most commonly experienced is often known as “swimmer’s ear.” This infection usually is due to bacterial infection of the skin tissue covering the ear canal. Excessive immersion in water or injuring the ear canal by putting things in it (such as using cotton swabs in the canal to remove earwax) makes you more likely to develop an outer ear infection.
- Middle ear infections: A middle ear infection (otitis media) is an infection just behind the eardrum (tympanic membrane) with pus trapped in the adjacent hollow cavity (middle ear space) of the facial bone. Middle ear infections frequently are a complication of the common cold in children. Most middle ear infections are caused by viruses and will resolve spontaneously. Bacterial infections cause some middle ear infections, which requires antibiotic treatment.
- Inner ear infections: Inner ear infections are very rare, and usually are caused by a virus. These “infections” are more accurately characterized as inflammation of the structures of the inner ear (labyrinthitis). Since these structures affect hearing and balance, inner ear infections cause symptoms such as ringing of the ears (tinnitus) or dizziness and balance disruption (vertigo). Usually, inner ear infections in adults and children (rare) need medical treatment.
Which parts of the ear can become infected?
There are three separate elements of the human ear that anatomically and functionally work together to enable hearing and interpretation of sounds as well as provide a sense of body position and balance during movements of the head and body.
- The outer ear includes the cartilaginous structure (pinna) and ear canal ending at the eardrum (tympanic membrane).
- The middle ear is composed of the eardrum and a small hollow area of the facial bone adjacent to the eardrum in which three small bones are linked together. The eardrum moves as a result of air pressure waves that are focused by the pinna and travel down the ear canal. Movement of the tympanic membrane causes a domino like movement of these three small bones that ultimately transfer this stimulus to the inner ear.
- The inner ear has two structures.
- The cochlea, which converts movements of the ear bones into nerve impulses that are sent to the brain, which then are “translated” into sounds.
- The semicircular canals (part of a separate structure), has three parts that interpret motion of the head allowing recognition of your position in space (for example, lying down, bending over, etc.) Read More