Ear Infection

Sarah K.  Vakkalanka, MD -  - Otolaryngologist

Pacifica ENT

Sarah K. Vakkalanka, MD

Otolaryngologist located in Orange County, Huntington Beach, CA

Ear Infection Specialist
Dr. Sarah Vakkalanka with Pacifica ENT in Huntington Beach and Orange County, California, is a specialist in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, which means she’s an expert at treating ear infections, a common affliction for children and adults. Ear infections are more than just painful; they can lead to hearing loss and even become life-threatening if left untreated.

Ear Infection Q & A

by Sarah K. Vakkalanka, MD

What does it mean to have an ear infection?

People with ear infections have either a bacterial or viral infection in some part of the ear. The ear is made up of three sections:

  • Outer
  • Middle
  • Inner


The middle and inner ear contain the delicate mechanisms that allow you to hear. An infection in these regions can cause considerable damage. The most common infections occur in the middle ear. Medically, this condition is called otitis media, and children are more likely to suffer from it, although it can affect adults, especially if they have an upper-respiratory infection, bad teeth, or sinus issues.

Why do people get ear infections?

Ear infections usually occur as a complication of another illness such as the common cold. Congestion builds up, and the nasal passages swell closing off the primary source of drainage from the ears -- the eustachian tubes. Once blocked, fluid accumulates in the middle ear leading to infection.

Excess fluid coming from the outside of the ear is sometimes a source, as well, hence the term swimmer’s ear.

What is swimmer’s ear?

You might hear an ear infection referred to as swimmer’s ear. This indicates an inflammation of the ear canal near the external or outer section. The inflammation causes the canal to narrow, trapping pathogens inside the ear and leading to infection.

What are the symptoms of an ear infection?

The most obvious sign is ear pain and pressure. Drainage will develop if the infection nears the outer section of the ear or if the eardrum ruptures allowing pus run out. Children often run a fever with ear infections, but that is less common in adults. You may also notice a child pulling on the sore ear. This if sometimes the first sign parents have that their child has an infection.

How do ear infections affect hearing?

In order for you to hear, sound waves must reach your inner ear. When you have an ear infection, the path is blocked by swelling and fluid. A decrease in hearing is a primary symptom of infection. For people who are prone to ear infections, hearing loss may become permanent as infection damages the intricate mechanisms of the ear, sometimes destroying them completely. Without those structures, hearing sound becomes difficult without an amplification device like a hearing aid.

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