Ear infections can happen to anyone, although they’re more common in children. It is important to get treatment right away for an acute ear infection, to lower the chance of the infection becoming chronic – an infection that won’t go away completely or keeps coming back.
A chronic ear infection occurs behind the eardrum and may include swelling, fluid or a bacterial infection. It isn’t life-threatening, but it can be very uncomfortable.
What causes ear infection?
The middle ear produces fluid, which is drained from the ear to the back of the throat by the Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube in one or both ears can become blocked, allowing fluid to build up and infection to set in. A child’s Eustachian tubes are more susceptible than an adult’s, because they are shorter, narrower, and more horizontal.
Acute ear infections are more common but chronic infections can be more dangerous. Repeated or lingering infections can cause a number of serious problems or even permanent damage to the ear or the nearby bones. The more ear infections you or your child has, the greater the risk of permanent hearing loss. In children, hearing loss – even if not permanent – can lead to slower speech and language development. Damage to the inner ear can also cause problems with balance in children and adults.