Fluid In The Ear Vs. An Ear Infection: Know The Difference

Different Diagnosis, Different Treatment

Earaches can be miserable and you may want to run to the pharmacy to find a medication to give you relief; however, the ear has different parts that, when infected, can cause pain.  It is important to know which part of the ear is the source of the problem in order to get the correct treatment.

What Are Symptoms Of Having Fluid In Your Ear?

One potential source of ear problems is the middle ear.  This is the small chamber behind the eardrum where the hearing bones are located.  If fluid gets trapped in the middle ear, you may experience a variety of symptoms. At mthe inimum, you will feel a clogged sensation or even reduced hearing.  Pressure and pain may also result. Sometimes your ears will pop and this may be brought on by yawning or opening your jaw widely. This may bring some relief but it is often temporary.   Descending in an airplane or diving will typically worsen your symptoms.

What Causes The Fluid?

Anyone can get fluid trapped behind their eardrum, but it occurs more often in children because of their anatomy. Children’s ear pressure regulating tubes, formally called eustachian tubes, are shorter and flatter than those in adults. The result is that they tend not to function as well. Eustachian tube dysfunction is often associated with allergies, congestion from a cold, enlarged adenoid, cigarette smoke, and oral abnormalities like a cleft palate.

What Are Symptoms Of Having An Actual Ear Infection?

Ear infections are usually painful. The pain might be sharp or dull and continuous. The ear could also feel full and you could have muffled hearing. You may also have drainage from your ear, feel nauseous, and have a fever. Ringing in your ear is another possible symptoms.

What Causes An Ear Infection?

Ear infections happen when one or both of the eustachian tubes is swollen or blocked, causing fluid to build up in the middle ear. When that fluid becomes infected, you have an ear infection. Blockage of the eustachian tubes can occur for a variety of reasons including allergies, a common cold, sinus infection, smoking or smoke exposure, excess mucous, changes in air pressure, and infected or enlarged adenoids.

What Is The Difference In Treatments?

If you have fluid in the ear, treatment often includes pain relievers or even a round of antibiotics.  Certain nasal sprays can also be helpful since the eustachian tubes actually drain into the back of the nose. If the fluid continues despite medical treatment, you may need tubes placed in your ears and at times your adenoids may need to be removed if they are contributing to the problem.

How Have The Treatments Of Ear Infections Improved Over Time?

Technology and advancements have improved the treatment of ear infections. Today, many over-the-counter medications are available to help alleviate pain. Fast pain relief is often the focus of treatment, especially with children. There are also advanced minimally invasive procedures such as eustachian tube dilation that can prevent chronic ear infections from occurring to relieve pain and other issues.

Can People Prevent Ear Infections And Fluid In The Ear?

While there is no way to prevent all ear infections, there are certain things you can do to minimize your risk of getting one. Avoid smoking and inhaling second-hand smoke. Wash your hands frequently to prevent infections from spreading.  Identify and treat underlying allergy or sinus problems aggressively.