A chronic ear infection is an infection in the middle ear that returns again and again, eventually causing permanent damage and hearing problems. There are many ways to treat a chronic ear infection, such as with antibiotics, steroids, through a variety of surgeries, and even some home remedies. The course of treatment is dependent on the duration and severity of the infection.
In order to understand the reasons behind the treatments for a chronic ear infection, it is important to first know the causes and symptoms. Most ear infections are acute ear infections. They occur when the Eustachian tube that connects the middle ear to the throat becomes blocked. The blockage causes fluid to build up in the middle ear. The buildup of fluid causes bacteria and viruses to grow and can eventually lead to an infection.
In most cases, a chronic ear infection is the result of a persistent acute ear infection. When an ear infection is chronic, the fluid in the middle ear can become extremely thick. In some circumstances, the eardrum even sticks to the bones that are found in the middle ear. If that happens, there can be significant damage to the affected individual’s hearing. For example, a hole may develop in the eardrum, the bones of the ear may become damaged, mastoiditis or infection of the mastoid may occur, or the tissue of the middle ear may become hard – all affecting the hearing.
The symptoms of a chronic ear infection may be unclear to the affected individual at first. For example, she may only experience mild pain in one or both ears. In addition, a fever may be present, but is usually not noticed at the onset of the infection. Lastly, there may be swelling or pus inside the ear; however, it usually takes a skilled medical professional to see such an occurrence.
Once the infection is discovered by a doctor, it can be treated. Sometimes persistent ear infections are caused by environmental sources, such as smoke or allergies. In those instances, the doctor may recommend an environmental change, such as requesting the person to quit smoking.
In most cases, a doctor will prescribe a round of antibiotics. The antibiotics are only useful if the infection is bacterial. If it is viral, antibiotics will not treat the infection. Sometimes antibiotic drops are used in the ear, particularly if there is a hole in the eardrum. Other times, the doctor will recommend steroids or he may place tubes in the ear. The tubes allow the fluid of the middle ear to drain and give the additional ventilation to prevent recurring infections.
If the chronic ear infection is severe, surgery may be necessary. In the simplest form, the surgeon may clean out the ear, removing abnormal tissue buildup and diseased areas of the ear. In other cases, surgery may be needed to repair the bones of the ear or the eardrum. If the mastoid bone has become infected, she may need to surgically remove the infection from that area, as well.
As with any medical problem, there are also home remedies which can be used to attempt to clear up a chronic ear infection. For example, rinsing the ear out twice a day with a combination of sterile water and either alcohol or vinegar removes the infection for some people. Other people claim that a few drops of breast milk will clear up an infection in the ear in a matter of days. Another at-home treatment involves putting drops of warm garlic juice in the ear canal to cure an infection.