Ear Infections Center

Ear Infection Causes and Risk Factors

What causes ear infection?
Ear infections usually occur when viruses and/or bacteria get inside the ear and cause an infection. Ear infections often happen as a result of another illness, such as a cold. In other words, if you get sick, it might affect your ears. When the ears are infected, the Eustachian tubes become inflamed and swollen. The adenoids (tonsils) can also become infected.

  1. Eustachian tubes are inside the ear. They connect the middle ear cavity with the throat, keeping air pressure stable in the ear. These tubes also help supply the ears with fresh air from the throat. If fluids plug the openings of the Eustachian tubes, air and fluid get trapped inside the ear and can cause painful inflammation and infection.
  2. Adenoids also known as the tonsils, are located in the throat near the Eustachian tubes' openings and are clumps of cells that fight infections. Adenoids can become infected and swollen and can also block the openings of the Eustachian tubes, trapping air and fluid into the middle ear.

Risk factors
Ear infections, also known as otitis media, are the most common illnesses among babies and young children. In fact, three out of four children experience otitis media by the time they are 3 years old. Some researchers believe that other factors, such as being around cigarette smoke, can contribute to ear infections.

Age - Children between the ages of 3 months to 3 years are especially prone to ear infections. One reason for this is due to increased exposure and susceptibility to infection. Childhood adenoids are larger and ear tubes are smaller, and this difference in the Eustachian tube makes it easier to become blocked with fluid and cause ear infections.

Family history - Family history of frequent ear infections can increase personal risk for developing ear infections.

Smoking - Smoke is not good for the delicate parts inside the ear.

An ear infection affects important parts in the ear that help us hear and can cause temporary hearing problems. Temporary speech and language problems can happen, too. If left untreated, these problems can become more serious. To learn more about how you can identify signs of ear infection for you or your child, read on. The next section on Ear Infection Symptoms reviews common ear infections symptoms.

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