Your ears are the main organ responsible for picking up sounds, sending them into your brain for understanding and providing you with a sense of balance. However, they are often exposed to various substances in the environment. While some of these are harmless, there are agents that can be a precursor to painful and sometimes debilitating ear infections.
What Are Ear Infections to Begin With
Ear infections occur when a virus, bacteria or fungi target the inner, outer or middle areas of the ear, causing inflammation and fluid buildup. 1 These infections, which may either be acute or chronic, 2 can be triggered by health disorders 3 and even activities such as swimming, bathing or showering frequently, 4 or by using headphones or rubbing cotton swabs in the ear. 5 Common risk factors for ear infections among children and adults include: 6
- Weather conditions
- Exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke
- Contact with other children or adults with respiratory disorders 7
- Genetics or heredity 8
Ear infections can be classified depending on the infection's location. Middle ear infections, also called chronic otitis media, are the most common, although some people can be diagnosed with an outer or inner ear infection too, or even more specific types of this disease, namely: 9 , 10
- Otitis media with effusion (OME)
- Otitis externa 11
- Otomycosis (a fungal infection) 12
- Acute mastoiditis
- Vestibular neuronitis
- Infectious myringitis
Ear Infections by the Numbers
Although ear infections can affect both children and adults, children have a higher infection risk. It's said that nearly 5 out of 6 preschoolers and young children may be diagnosed with a middle ear infection before the age of 3, 13 , 14 and almost 100 percent of children will have a middle ear infection by the time they're 5 years old.
These infections can burn a hole in your wallet too. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, ear infections are responsible for 25 million doctors' office visits per year, and direct treatment costs are estimated to reach $3 billion. 15 A 2014 Laryngoscope article also highlighted this point, with a team of researchers from Harvard University and University of California, Los Angeles noting that children with ear infections receive:
- Two extra doctor's visits
- 0.2 emergency room visits
- 1.6 times more prescription medications
As a result, parents or guardians may need to spend $314 annually on health care per affected child, and an increase of $17 as well for medicines. 16
Combat Ear Infections Before They Disrupt Your Health
Ear infections can take a toll on your health in more ways than one, so it's crucial that you learn how to avoid this condition and spot its early signs, especially among young children.
These Ear Infections pages can provide you with important information about this condition, such as its main symptoms and causes. You'll also be able to learn firsthand how you can address ear infections using natural remedies and the best ways to prevent them from targeting you in the first place. This way, you'll be able to ensure better ear health for a longer period of time.
• Ear Infection: An Introduction
• What Is an Ear Infection?
• Ear Infection Symptoms
• Ear Infection Causes
• Types of Ear Infection
• Ear Infection in Babies and Children
• Are Ear Infections Contagious?
• Ear Infection Treatment
• Essential Oils for Ear Infection
• Ear Infection Prevention
• Ear Infection FAQ
What Is an Ear Infection?
What Is an Ear Infection?