Ear infections are common and often accompany, or follow, a cold. The symptoms may include earache, fever, feeling sick, dull hearing or hearing loss and fluid in the ear. You can't catch an ear infection from someone else, but bacteria and viruses can spread easily, so washing your hands and covering your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze is advisable. You should also avoid poking or cleaning your ears with cotton buds, as this can spread bacteria, causing an infection, or even damaging your ear.
The majority of ear infections are caused by viruses and usually clear up on their own without the need for treatment. But, you may find that painkillers such as paracetamol will help ease any pain and fever.
Some ear infections are caused by bacteria. These infections will also usually clear up on their own without the need for any treatment.
However, if your symptoms don't improve after a few days, or if you're in a lot of pain, it's a good idea to speak to one of our ear, nose and throat specialists who will be able to suggest the best treatment. The first thing our specialists will do is identify the cause of your ear infection. They'll discuss your symptoms with you and will look inside your ears using a small hand-held device with a light on the end (called an otoscope). This is a fast and painless examination. In some cases, your specialist may also carry out some hearing tests. These are also non-invasive and painless, so there's no need to worry if they suggest this.
If you do need treatment for an ear infection it will usually be antibiotics. And, if there's anything blocking your ear such as earwax or mucus, our specialists may suggest removing it using microsuction. This is a gentle and safe treatment that we can do here at the clinic.
In some cases, the infection may spread to a space inside the middle ear called the mastoid cavity. This may cause a discharge from the ear and your hearing may be affected. Occasionally, this can also lead to a skin growth inside the ear. If this happens, then a surgery (known as mastoid surgery or mastoidectomy) may be needed to remove the infection or skin growth. This is a routine surgery and you should be able to return home the same day.