The ear canal is a cylinder-shaped structure that extends from the outer part of the ear, above the ear lobe, all the way to the eardrum. A skin lining in the ear canal serves as a barrier against infection from bacteria and fungi. This lining which is slightly acidic also serves as a physical barrier that protects against excessive moisture.
If there is a break in the skin lining, bacteria and or fungi are able to invade the outer ear and cause an infection. There are many reasons for the skin lining in the ear to become broken including:
- When you attempt to clean your ears with cotton-tipped swabs or other objects inserted in the ear, the skin lining of the ear canal may break.
- Excessive moisture in the ear canal from showering or swimming also alters the acidic environment of the ear canal, and allows for the invasion of bacteria or fungi. This is type of infection is sometimes referred to as swimmer’s ear and is common in children and teens.
- Ear plugs, hearing aids, headphones, and other devices that may be inserted into the ear canal may increase the risk of an ear infection.
The most common symptom of an ear infection is pain which usually begins a day or two after the skin is broken. In some cases the ear may itch and the outer ear may turn red and even drain a fluid. Hearing loss to the ear infected may also occur.
If you or a family member experience symptoms of an ear infection, you should visit your doctor or North County Audiology immediately by calling (858) 240-4722 for an examination.