Types of ear infection (fungus, bacteria and other things!)

Ear infections can be caused by bacteria or a virus that typically enters the ear from the nose, mouth, or throat. The infection will cause inflammation and fluid build up in the middle ear as it tries to enter.

There are three types of ear infections: otitis externa (outer ear infection), otitis media (middle ear infection), and cholesteatoma (skin overgrowth). Treatments for ear infections vary by the type of infection.

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Treatment for Ear Infections

Treatments for ear infections can be performed at home or in a doctor's office, and include antibiotics, antiviral medications, and drops.

The first line of treatment for an ear infection is to take ibuprofen or acetaminophen. The pain can also be relieved by applying pressure on the outside of the ear. Swimmer's Ear (otitis externa) is treated with antibiotics, anti-fungal, and decongestants.

If there is no improvement with these treatments or if more serious symptoms are present then medical treatment may be required. Antibiotics that are prescribed by a doctor will usually clear the infection up. Depending on how severe an attack is, some people will need to stay for several days in the hospital until they are completely recovered.

Symptoms of an ear infection

The symptoms of an ear infection include:

  • Earache, pain, or tenderness in the ear
  • Feeling of fullness in the ears
  • Headache, neck pain, and fever with an ear infection
  • Abnormal discharge from the ear
  • Loss of hearing if the infection spreads to the inner ear membrane
  • Swelling around the ear
  • A foul smell or discoloration in the ear

Causes of an ear infection

The causes of an ear infection can include:

  • Swimming, especially in non-chlorinated water (in lakes for example) is a cause. So is scratching inside the ear with dirty fingers.
  • People with allergies are more susceptible to spreading bacteria.
  • Use of antibiotics, which can cause an overgrowth of yeast in the body.
  • Wetting your hair while showering or bathing can roll bacteria into your ears.
  • People who often use cotton swabs and other implements to clean their ears can cause bacteria to fester and spread.
  • Pushing the outer ear too hard during bathing can irritate the outer ear.
  • Cleaning the ears with Q-tips or other devices can push bacteria in deeper or even puncture the ear drum.
  • People taking too much aspirin may have an ear infection if their immune system is weakened.

Ear infections types

There are several types of ear infection

  • Herpes zoster
  • Otitis media
  • Serous otitis media
  • Otitis externa
  • Cholesteatoma

Herpes zoster 

Herpes zoster is a viral disease caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chicken pox. One or more painful blisters usually develop along a nerve pathway from the site of the original infection, often on an arm or leg though they can occur anywhere in the body. Herpes zoster is sometimes called "shingles."

Otitis Media or Middle Ear Infection

Otitis media is an inner-ear infection caused by bacteria. It can be acute (having an active infection) or chronic (having repeated episodes). Acute otitis media typically occurs in children between one month to two years of age, while chronic otitis media affects older children and adults. If acute otitis media is not treated, it may develop into chronic otitis media. Chronic otitis mediainfections may cause hearing loss or infection to spread to the mastoid bone behind the ear. Doctors use antibiotics to treat middle ear infections.

Serous otitis media 

Serous otitis media is a middle ear infection without evidence of inflammation, usually lasting for less than two weeks. Antibiotics may not be necessary.

Otitis Externa or Ear Infection 

Otitis externa is an external ear infection. Without treatment, the infection may spread beyond the outer ear to become otitis media. Ear infections due to bacteria are typically treated with antibiotics . Ear infections due to viruses are treated with antiviral agents . Otitis media is treated with antibiotics and antiviral agents . Cholesteatoma, which is a tumor that grows outside of the eardrum, may be treated with surgery or radiation therapy.

Infectious myringitis

Infectious myringitis is an ear infection caused by the parainfluenza virus. It usually develops within three to seven days after exposure to the virus. If the infection spreads, hearing loss may develop.

Acute mastoiditis 

Acute mastoiditis is an infection of the mastoid bone, the bone behind the ear. It usually results from otitis media or otitis externa that spreads to this area. Antibiotics are typically used to treat acute mastoiditis .


Cholesteatomais a growth of skin overgrowth in the middle ear that is usually benign (non-cancerous). It is caused by poor hygiene, genetics , allergies , or chronic ear infections . An ncision in the ear is made to remove it. Surgery to remove cholesteatomamost often is performed when it causes hearing loss or pain, but radiation therapy may also be used.


Ear infection is an infection of the outer layer of the ear. This layer is called the external or middle ear membrane. The outer portion of this membrane is called the eardrum. Ear infections may affect one or both ears at once, although more often it will be on one side alone.

A common reason for first evaluation of a child with recurring ear infections is otitis media with effusion , also known as otitis media with effusion (OME).

If you have an ear infection you need to see a Doctor or Pharmacist!


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