Ear infection pain is not only uncomfortable, but it can be a problem that limits you from everyday activities. Focusing or participating in physical activities is hard when you are in pain.
Most of the time, ear infections will clear up within a few days with the right treatments. But there are situations when a simple ear infection turns into a chronic condition.
If you are experiencing chronic ear pain, it might be time to talk to a specialist; schedule an appointment with an ENT instead of consulting with a primary care physician.
Chronic Ear Infection: What Is It?
When an ear infection doesn’t heal, it’s known as a chronic ear infection. Additionally, recurring ear infections can be similar to chronic infections.
The area behind the eardrum is where the infection is located. A small part known as the Eustachian tube helps fluid drain from the middle ear. If this tube is plugged or blocked, it creates the conditions for an infection to develop.
A blocked Eustachian tube causes pain sensations, especially if the infection is left untreated or progresses quickly. With serious ear infections, there is a risk of the eardrum rupturing.
With a chronic condition, you might have mild or moderate pain that never seems to go away. Each patient is unique, but the key indicator of a chronic ear infection is that the symptoms are long-lasting and continue beyond a week to 10 days.
Symptoms of a Chronic Ear Infection
With an acute ear infection, the pain typically starts suddenly and is very intense. This severe pain is a motivation to see a doctor immediately for treatment.
On the other hand, chronic ear infections tend to have milder symptoms compared to acute infections. For example, you might notice that the symptoms are constant but low-grade. Or some people experience chronic ear infections with symptoms that come and go.
The most common chronic ear infection signs include the following:
- Mild to moderate ear pain
- A pressure sensation in the ear
- Low fever
- Difficulty sleeping
- Hearing loss
- Fluid draining from the ears
You might have one or more of these symptoms. Additionally, pay attention to how long the symptoms stick around. When the symptoms hang on for weeks or months, it’s a sign that you might need treatment for a chronic condition.
Ear Infection Symptoms in Children
If your child has an ear infection, they might be unable to communicate their pain and discomfort. But parents can watch for signs, such as an infant being more fussy than usual. In addition, the child might get more uncomfortable or fussy when lying down since it increases the pressure on the ear.
Also, pay attention to the child’s sleeping and eating habits. These patterns often change because of the pain they are experiencing. Another sign that a child might have an ear infection is that they are often tugging and pulling on the ear.
Keep in mind that ear infection symptoms can also be similar to the behavior a child exhibits when they are teething. So, pay attention to the progression of the symptoms. Don’t hesitate to visit a doctor if you suspect your child might be experiencing an ear infection or other illness.
When to See an ENT for Chronic Ear Infections
With an acute ear infection, it’s easy to know that a doctor’s visit is needed because the pain and symptoms are so severe. But it can be harder to know when to seek treatment for a chronic infection.
One important thing to understand: Early and effective treatment for an acute ear infection is a good way to prevent the likelihood of a chronic ear infection.
Most people will visit a primary care physician for an acute ear infection. You can also see an ENT if preferred. But for chronic infections, it’s always best to talk to an ENT specialist instead of a general practitioner.
Here are a few signs that you need treatment from an ENT for a chronic ear infection:
- Ear infection treatments from your primary care physician don’t seem to be working
- You’ve been treating an ear infection, but the symptoms seem to be getting worse, or you are experiencing new symptoms
- A recurring ear infection happens – more than 3 times a year
How Do You Treat Chronic Ear Infections?
How do you get rid of an ear infection that keeps coming back? For an acute infection, the most common recommendation is to use antibiotics. These medications can knock out the infection quickly and effectively.
On the other hand, it’s not a good idea to take antibiotics repeatedly for a chronic condition. Instead, you need to work with an ENT to identify the root cause and figure out a treatment plan that clears up the infection for good.
Here are a few things that you can do at home to alleviate the symptoms and support the healing process:
- Manage the pain by holding a warm washcloth over the painful area. Not only does the warmth help with pain relief, but it can also promote drainage in the ear.
- Use over-the-counter ear drops. Always follow the package instructions to determine the correct amount and frequency.
- Use over-the-counter pain medications to stop the pain, such as ibuprofen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or acetaminophen.
Even though these at-home remedies can help with symptom relief, they don’t address the root cause. So, the best solution is to pair these at-home treatments with professional medication treatments, as an ear, nose, and throat specialist recommends.
ENT Treatments for Chronic Ear Infections
Your ENT will begin with a thorough diagnostic process to help you identify the root cause of your symptoms. It’s important to understand why you are experiencing pain and look for underlying conditions contributing to the recurring issues.
ENTs might recommend one or more treatments:
- Medications: Prescription medications can help to clear up the infection. These medications can be oral pills. Or, you might use ear drops that contain antibiotics.
- Surgery: Sometimes, surgery is necessary for chronic ear infections. This intensive treatment is only recommended if your symptoms aren’t responding to other minimally-invasive treatments.
What Is Considered Too Many Ear Infections?
When a person has three or more ear infections within 6 months (or 4 infections within a year), it is a sign that treatment is necessary for chronic ear infections.
Working with your doctor to identify the optimal treatment plan is important. Leaving this condition untreated can lead to complications, such as hearing loss, vertigo, permanent damage to the middle ear, hardening of tissue in the ear, and even inflammation around the brain.
Call an ENT for Chronic Ear Infection Treatment
Is it time to treat your chronic ear infection? Then reach out to our experienced team to schedule a consultation with a local ENT. We are always just a phone call away!
We offer ENT services for families in the Collin County and Dallas areas. In addition, Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat provides comprehensive services for people of all ages. We have two locations in Frisco and Plano, TX. Access our online form when you would like to book an appointment, or call: (972) 596-4005.