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What are the Signs and Symptoms of Ear Infection?

Updated on September 2, 2015

Anatomy of External Ear


What are the Signs and Symptoms of Ear Infection?

Ear infection can be an infection of the external ear, middle ear or internal ear. The predisposing factors and the signs and symptoms for each of these infections are different.

External ear infection is very common among people who go for swimming whereas middle ear infection is very common after upper respiratory tract infection and among those with allergic tendencies.

What are the Factors Contributing to External Ear Infection?

There are several personal factors, environmental factors and factors related to person’s habit contributing to the development of external ear infection.

  • Absence of ear wax (cerumen) can contribute to the development of external ear infection. Ear wax is protective to the ear and it prevents external agents entering the ear. Repeated exposure to water can cause scanty ear wax and drying of the external ear canal. So those who go for swimming especially in common swimming pools are at high risk for contracting ear infection.
  • If you live in an area with humid climate, there is more chance of external ear infection because high humidity can increase the growth of microorganisms in the moist ear canal
  • Retained water in ear canal is especially common for swimmers and the resulting alteration in skin integrity may promote bacterial or fungal growth
  • Increased temperature is another risk factor and it is common for those who live in the tropical areas.
  • Localized injury to the ear canal due to improper use of objects (safety pins, pencils, clips etc.) to remove ear wax can cause ear infections.
  • People with allergic predispositions are also at increased risk for getting external ear infection

Ear Infection

What are the Causes of External Ear Infection?

External ear infection can be caused by bacteria like pseudomonas and staphylococcus, fungus like aspergillus or candida it may be due to eczema or allergic diseases.

Cleaning the Ear of Wax

What do you do to Clean Your Ear of Wax?

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What are the Signs and Symptoms of External Ear Infection?

  • Pain: pain of external ear infection may be mild in the beginning and in one or two days it might progress to severe pain. Pain increases if you press on the tragus. (a prominent part on the inner side of the external ear)
  • Fever is not a very common sign of external ear infection
  • Itching can be there if the infection is due to fungus
  • It occurs commonly after swimming.
  • In some cases there can be discharge from the ear and temporary hearing loss
  • These problems may be severe in people with decreased immunity such as those suffering from diabetes

Impacted Wax Removal with Special Instruments

Middle Ear Infection

Middle ear infection can be an infection of the Eustachian Tube (a tube that connecting middle ear to the pharynx), middle ear or the tympanic membrane. Middle ear infection usually follows common cold or upper respiratory tract infection.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Middle Ear Infection?

Patients usually report

  • a feeling of fullness or congestion in the ear

  • hearing loss

  • ringing in the ears

  • intermittent pain and

  • unsteadiness of the gait.

  • Fever is a very rare sign.

  • Itching also can be a symptom although not very frequent.

All these signs and symptoms can be due to fluid accumulation in the middle ear. Fluid acts as a very good medium for the growth of the microorganisms and the infection sets in. As the infection and inflammation progresses pressure builds up and may result in the rupture of the tympanic membrane.

Inner Ear Infection

Inner ear has cochlea and the vestibular system which maintains the balance of the body. Inner ear infection is known as labyrinthitis. Since the parts of the inner ear have an important function of maintaining balance of the body, infection of the inner ear can cause disequilibrium and giddiness.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Inner Ear Infection?

The vestibular system of the inner ear has semicircular canals and the utricle and saccule which can sense the changes in motion. That explains the reason for development of giddiness among patients with inner ear infection.

Rapid eye motion (nystagmus) can occur because of the impairment in coordination between the head movement and eyes.

Patients may be nauseated and giddiness may instill anxiety in them.


From the above explanation we can understand that the signs and symptoms of ear infection are different according to the parts involved. As soon as these symptoms are seen a medical practitioner's help need to be sought to correct the problem.


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    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 4 years ago from India

      Hi mylindaelliott

      Thanks for stopping by. Your comments are always appreciated.

    • mylindaelliott profile image

      mylindaelliott 4 years ago from Louisiana

      Great hub, I feel for the young lady with the impacted ear was. I was deaf in one ear when a doctor figured out it was impacted ear wax. When he took it out I could immediately hear in that ear.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 4 years ago from India

      Hello Sir, Dr Pran Rangan

      Thank you for the appreciation

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 4 years ago from India

      Hi DDE,

      Thanks for stopping by

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 4 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Really a good hub.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Ear infection sounds very painful and one should consider this information as helpful and most useful. Proper ear care is required and going to the doctor to have the ear cleaned is better than using cotton buds.