Common Types of Ear Infections

Common Types of Ear Infections - Common Types of Ear Infections

Infections of the ear are no one’s favorite topic, especially parents of young children. We will briefly cover two of the most frequent types of infection in this blog. The most common infections of this nature are infections of the middle ear, or acute otitis media. Swimmer’s Ear, which is an infection of the outer ear, is another common ear infection. Both of these conditions tend to occur more frequently in the very young, as their eustachian tubes (which connect the ear to the throat) are smaller and can become blocked more easily.

Causes & Symptoms

Swimmer’s Ear, or otitis externa, is caused by water, dirt, sand, or other debris entering the ear canal. Symptoms can include:

  • Pain
  • Itching
  • Swollen ear canal
  • Drainage
  • Hearing loss
  • Feeling of fullness in the ear

Middle ear infections are caused by bacteria or viruses, usually occurring after a cold, sinus infection, or the flu. Other factors contributing to acute otitis media include age (most common in children 6 months to 2 years old), group child care, seasonal factors (allergies, cold & flu season), poor air quality (exposure to tobacco smoke or air pollution), and bottle feeding.

Symptoms can include:

  • Pulling or tugging at the ear
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increasing crying and/or irritability
  • Pain in the ear
  • Fever of 100º F or higher
  • Loss of balance
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty hearing or responding to sounds

Contact your doctor if you or your child are experiencing these symptoms.


Sometimes ear infections can go away with treatment at home, but speak with your doctor to determine the best course of action for you or your child. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and rest are usually the best home treatments for these infections. If the infection does not go away on its own, most doctors prescribe antibiotics to deal with it. The treatment plan is usually based on age and severity of infection.

Both infections are preventable, although there is more concrete prevention for middle ear infections, such as hand washing, avoiding tobacco use, breastfeeding babies, up to date immunization, limiting or avoiding pacifier use after 6 months of age, and limiting use of group child care if possible.