Treating Chronic Ear Infections
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Treating Chronic Ear Infections

What chronic ear infections are and reasons why they occur.

Let's Hear it for the Ears

In understanding the workings of the inner ear, keep in mind that an ear canal is a hollow space located between the ear drum and Eustachian tube, which connects to the back of the nose. When fluid, wax, or air build up within the Eustachian tubes, a person can experience a decrease or a change in hearing, along with pain or even swelling in the surrounding areas (such as with the glands in the throat), dizziness, or nausea. During respiratory illnesses and bouts of hayfever, it is highly common for sufferers to have the sensation of blocked or stuffy ears.

Air pressure changes are unavoidable; therefore everyone experiences ear pain or discomfort every once in a while when yawning, going up or down in an elevator, or when traveling in a plane. Such instances are not cause for concern. But if ever fevers, persistent pain, or continuous problems with balance occur, these can indicate a viral or bacterial infection, bone misalignment, nerve damage, or abnormal growths. The only way to know the definite cause is to undergo a doctor's examination, and if necessary, a referral to an Ear/Nose/Throat (ENT) specialist or neurologist.

Chronic Problems

In the case of ear infections that continue to occur, it could be that the ears are unable to properly drain due to injury, misalignment or deformation of the canals, ear drums, bones, or the surrounding areas. If not caught early, wax or fluid can harbor bacteria that becomes an infection. If an infection is left untreated, it can slow the ears' ability to drain. Eventually, permanent hearing loss can result.

Treatments

Ears are not all created equal, as some people are born with ear defects, or develop a multitude of disorders and diseases that can compromise ear health.  People who have small ear canals will more than likely suffer from impacted ear wax and infections. To ensure the ears are kept clean and able to drain, it is important to maintain good hygiene. This includes regularly cleaning the area around the outer ear, and having the ears irrigated to remove wax build-up.

Anti-histamines will minimize the presence of post-nasal fluid that can back-up into the Eustachian tubes and flow into the inner ear.

Antibiotics or steroids at the onset of infection can help prevent further backup and secondary infections.  Ear drops, saline nose drops, or a simple saltwater solution to gargle in the mouth are all effective remedies to use in conjunction with antibiotics or any other methods of treatment.

Ear-tubes enable the fluid to drain.  They are inserted into the ears while under sedation (as an out-patient procedure).  Some people might only need tubes once or twice as infants or throughout early childhood, while others may need them through adulthood.

Massage may prove useful in relieving symptoms.  Ask your massage therapist or chiropractor about lymphatic drainage massage, or have them show you how to perform an ear massage at home.

Lifestyle changes such as altering your diet (or eliminating foods you might be allergic to), having a pillow with good support for your head while sleeping (to avoid lying flat), and limiting exposure to air pollutants can all do wonders to help your ears stay healthy in more ways than one.  Additionally, staying as healthy as you can through exercise can also boost your immune system, decreasing the chance for you to be prone to infections of any kind.

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