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The ear is divided into three separate compartments: the outer, middle, and inner ear. The outer ear is simply the earlobe and a short tube leading to the eardrum. The eardrum separates the middle and outer ears. The middle ear contains the bones that link the eardrum to the inner ear. The inner ear contains the balance organs and the nerves vital to hearing.

Outer ear infections can be chronic (lasting 3 or more months) or acute (short-term) and are more commonly affect in children 7 to 12 years of age, people in warm and humid climates, people who swim, and people who use devices that protect hearing. Infection of the outer ear is also called swimmer’s ear. It’s rarely serious.

Symptoms:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Heat
  • Pain or discomfort in the ear
  • Itching
  • Excessive fluid drainage

Symptoms accompanied by a fever or swollen lymph nodes, Severe pain in the face, head, or neck may also indicate advancing infection. If you have ear pain with any of these symptoms, consult your ENT doctor right away.

Causes:

  • Swimming (or showering too frequently or possibly even bathing) can lead to an outer ear infection.
  • The water left inside the ear canal can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • An infection can also occur if the thin layer of skin that lines the ear canal is injured.
  • Using headphones, placing cotton swabs in your ear, or intense scratching can damage these delicate cells.

Diagnosis:

A doctor can usually diagnose an outer ear infection by assessing the patient’s symptoms and looking into the patient’s ear with an otoscope.

Highlights

  • Most common symptoms of outer ear infection include redness, swelling, and discomfort or pain when touching the ear.
  • For an outer ear infection, antibiotic eardrops are the common treatment that has not healed on its own.
  • The most important part of home treatment is to keep the ear dry.
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