Otitis externa is commonly caused by trapped moisture in the ear canal or by minor injury to the ear canal. Less commonly, otitis externa can occur after otitis media with a ruptured ear drum.
Risk factors for otitis externa include:
- Moisture trapped in the ear canal
- The condition commonly called swimmer's ear can occur after swimming, bathing, or hot humid weather.
- Bacteria that cause the infection are able to grow and multiply easily in the warm, dark, moist environment. Less commonly, the infection may be caused by a fungus.
- Minor injury or scrape to the ear canal skin
- This usually happens during attempts to clean the ear with objects, such as a cotton-tipped swab or paper clip. This break in the skin may allow bacteria to enter and start an infection.
Otitis media is caused by either a viral or bacterial infection of the middle ear. It often follows a cold or upper respiratory tract infection that causes inflammation of the Eustachian tube and prevents normal ventilation and fluid drainage from the middle ear.
Other factors that may predispose otitis media include:
- secondhand smoke exposure,
- day care,
- bottle feeding when laying supine or flat,
- family history of ear infections, and
- abnormal anatomy of the head and neck area.
Myringitis, an inflammation of the ear drum may be due to localized infection or trauma.
Risk factors for myringitis include:
- Local trauma to the ear drum may be due to puncture by a foreign object like a Qtip or paper clip used to remove wax or an insect. There may also be barotrauma, in which the ear drum is ruptured. This may occur with changes in pressure due to diving, flying in an airplane, or due to an explosion or very loud noise.
- Bacterial and viral infections of the ear drum may cause inflammation and blistering, also known as bullous myringitis (bullous=fluid filled blister).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/23/2015
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