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Ear Infections: Symptoms, Signs & Treatments | Affinity Health

Affinity Health, a leading provider of affordable medical insurance in SA, discusses how ear infections happen and what you can do about them.


The National Centre for Biotechnology Information states that ear infections account for the most common reason for visits to the paediatrician and family doctors. Around 75% of children experiencing at least one ear infection before their third birthday. However, contrary to popular belief, ear infections can also affect adults.


What Causes Ear Infections?

The ear anatomy is divided into three different parts that work together to collect sounds and send them to the brain.

  1. The outer ear is made up of the pinna (Latin for “wing” or “fin”) and the ear canal (the parts that you can touch and see).
  2. The middle ear is an air-filled, membrane-lined space located between the ear canal and the Eustachian tube, cochlea, and auditory nerve. This part of the ear turns sound waves into vibrations and delivers them to the inner ear.
  3. The inner ear – consisting of tiny bony structures filled with fluid – is responsible for hearing and balance. Sound waves from the middle ear create waves in the fluid of the inner ear, sending sound or movement signals to the brain.


Different Types Of Ear Infections

In general, there are three types of ear infections:

Acute Otitis Media (AOM), Otitis Media with Effusion (OME), and Chronic Otitis Media with Effusion (COME).

  • The most common and least serious ear infection is AOM. The middle ear becomes infected and swollen, and fluid is trapped behind the eardrum. AOM can cause mild pain, throbbing, and fever.
  • After an ear infection has cleared, some fluid may remain behind the eardrum, known as OME. Although a person with OME may not show symptoms, a doctor will be able to detect any remaining fluid.
  • COME, on the other hand, refers to fluid returning to the middle ear on a regular basis, whether or not an infection is present. This reduces your ability to fight other infections and has a negative impact on your hearing.


Treatment For Ear Infections In Children And Adults

Because babies’ and children’s eustachian tubes are smaller and more horizontal than those of most adults, they are more susceptible to ear infections than adults. If your little one is cranky, unusually fussy and tugging at his or her ear, or is feverish and having difficulty sleeping, chances are it may be due to an ear infection.


Treatment for children with ear infections is similar to that of adults and often involves over-the-counter medications to reduce pain and fever, applying a wet, warm washcloth to the affected ear, and elevating your child’s head to relieve the pressure.


While most ear infections that affect the middle ear are mild and usually go away within one to two weeks, inner ear infections can last longer and may require a trip to the doctor, as per MedicineNet.


“More often than not, ear infections are caused by a virus, but, in some cases, bacteria could also be to blame, as can a number of other medical conditions and illnesses,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.


Read More: Home Remedies for Earaches


“Dizziness, nausea, fever and discomfort  are all common symptoms of an ear infection. However, if the pain isn’t getting better, this indicate something worse. If you have trouble hearing, or experience pus-like ear drainage, you should see your doctor as soon as you can,” adds Hewlett.


Affinity Health offers members an affordable Day-to-Day health plan for the management and treatment of common daily illnesses, including ear infections.


The plan gives you access to Affinity Health’s nationwide network of medical professionals, plus unlimited, telephonic consultations with an Affinity Health primary healthcare consultant, who will assess your symptoms and give you medical advice before issuing you with a script for medication or referring you to consult with an Affinity Health network GP.


About Affinity Health

Affinity Health aims to provide premier quality, affordable medical insurance to South Africans. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service when they are faced with injury or illness. We work to deliver innovative solutions that are simple, cost-effective, and proven, so our cover is structured to ensure that you get exactly what you need. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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