Chronic Ear Infections


Chronic ear infections develop in the middle ear. They recur more than two times or persist despite treatment. If a chronic ear infection is left untreated, it can result in permanent ear or hearing damage.

Symptoms of Chronic Ear Infections

Many chronic ear infections come with milder symptoms compared to an acute ear infection. One or both ears can be affected. Symptoms can come and go. The symptoms of these long-term or recurrent infections include mild pain or discomfort in the ear. You may notice a sense of pressure in the ear, too. You could notice balance problems, facial weakness, or pus draining out of the ear. Babies and young kids may have a fever or be fussy.

Causes of Chronic Ear Infections

All ear infections result from blockages of the Eustachian tube. A clog in the Eustachian tube causes the middle ear to become poorly ventilated and moist, which makes a good breeding ground for bacteria. People with a cold, sinus infection, allergies, adenoid problems, or post nasal drip can have blockages in their Eustachian tubes.

Kids with upper respiratory infections such as colds often get ear infections. These infections allow bacteria that usually live in the nose to invade the nearby middle ear. In some people, a chronic ear infection can result from an acute ear infection that never resolved. A blockage remains in the Eustachian tube, allowing for thick layers of mucus to build up. The mucus makes it hard for the ears to drain, causing inflammation and higher internal pressure levels. Over time, the ear drum deforms and may even rupture. A hole in the ear drum allows bacteria and water to get into the inner ear.

Persistent chronic ear infections that are left untreated can degrade the walls of the middle and inner ears. Rarely, the infection can move deeper into the head, causing meningitis or a brain abscess.

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Treatment of Chronic Ear Infections

Otolaryngologists begin with an exam and medical history. The doctor then examines your ear, nose and throat. In some cases, the doctor will order a test to measure pressure in your middle ear. The treatment that you will have for your chronic ear infection depends on how severe the infection is. A mild infection can be treated by caring for the blockage in your Eustachian tube. Allergy medications, antibiotics, or ventilation tubes may also be prescribed to help get rid of infections and promote normal air circulation within your middle and inner ear.

If you have experienced damage to your ear drum or ear walls, your doctor will prescribe an oral antibiotic or an antibiotic ear drop. Once the infection has cleared, surgery may be needed in order to repair the internal structures of your ear. The otolaryngologist can remove abnormal growths and rebuild your ear drum and ear walls. These reconstructive surgeries have a 90 to 95 percent success rate, and recovery takes a few months. About three months after your surgery, you should have regained your full scope of hearing.