Ear Infection

What is an ear infection?

To truly understand ear infection, one must first have some knowledge of the ear anatomy.

The ear can generally be divided into 3 parts:

  1. Outer ear: from the external ear up till the ear drum
  2. Middle ear: from the ear drum, to the air-filled space and bones up till the cochlea
  3. Inner ear: the cochlea and it’s nerves

Generally, when talking about ear infection, it refers to infection of the middle ear (Otitis Media). 
Although the outer and inner ear may get infected as well.

What causes an ear infection?

Ear infections arise from either bacterial or fungal invasion of the middle ear causing 
inflammation with pus/fluid build up.

It may be acute (usually resolving less than 3 weeks) or chronic lasting for a long duration and may lead to permanent hearing damage.

What are the tisk factors for developing and Ear infection?

– Age: children between age 6 months to 2 years are most susceptible. It affects boys more than girls
– Bottle fed infants
– Cleft plate
– Recent ear infection
– Exposure to tobacco

Signs and Symptoms

-Ear pain
-Tugging or pulling ear (little children)
-Ear discharge
-loss of balance
-Tinnitus (ringing in ear)
-Hearing difficulty

Infection of the ear

How is it Diagnosed?

– Elaborate history taking to clinical presentation / symptoms
– Full blood count
– Ear examination using otoscope (to check for eardrum inflammation, redness, bulging or 
collapse, pus drainage)
– Tympanometry
– Tympanocentesis with culture of the aspirate after which the following diagnosis may be made:

  • A) Acute Otitis media
  • B) Otitis Media with effusion or 
    C)Chronic suppurative otitis media


Most ear infections resolve without intervention within a week or two.

Treatment involve;

  • Pain management
    Treat causative agent: antibiotic or anti-fungal therapy
    Surgical: tympanostomy


  • – Encourage breast feeding
    – Vaccination against flu causing upper respiratory tract infections 
    – keep good hygiene
    – Avoid putting foreign objects in ear
    – Discourage overzealous cleaning of the ear

Possible Complications

If not properly managed the following could ensue:

  • -infection of surrounding tissues (mastoditis)
    -Permanent hearing loss
    -Speech and language disturbance
    -Rupture of eardrum.

Written by Dr Ajughoro Oghenetega

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