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People of all ages and genders can experience an ear infection. While a middle ear infection is the most common type, it is also possible to develop an inner ear infection as well. In all cases, there are a few simple causes for ear infections. If addressed in their early stages, these conditions can be effectively treated with antibiotics or even over the counter medications. However, it is sometimes necessary to use surgery to eliminate the factors that lead to ear infections.
Most of the causes for ear infections have to do with the presence of a virus or the development of bacteria in the ear. This is especially true for children, since the Eustachian tubes of the ear are somewhat shorter and at an angle that is more horizontal than in adults. When bacteria collects in the tubes, the result is an inflammation that can progress to the middle ear and create a great deal of discomfort.
Another common cause of ear infections is the improper development of the Eustachian tube itself. As individuals grow, the tubes normally become longer and tend to expand. When this does not happen, the adult with underdeveloped Eustachian tubes remains more susceptible to the possibility of collecting bacteria in the tube and eventually developing an infection that can spread to both the middle and inner ear. If the situation is not corrected, the tube can become completely blocked. This creates the ideal condition for the bacteria to proliferate and cause even more damage.
There are a number of symptoms associated with ear infections. Along with extreme discomfort in the ear, the individual may have trouble hearing. Running a temperature is common with ear infections, as is a sense of feeling unwell in general. In some cases, there may be a discharge from the ear. Dizziness may appear with advanced ear infections.
While minor ear infections can often be treated with over the counter medication, it is sometimes necessary to consult a physician. In some cases, the family doctor will administer antibiotics that will help to cure the virus and begin to flush the bacteria from the ear. If the condition is especially dire, the general practitioner may refer the patient to an otolaryngologist. This ear nose and throat specialist may employ more aggressive regimens of antibiotics or even recommend surgery to correct a problem with the tubes.