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What are some other types of ear emergencies?
- Ruptured tympanic membrane (eardrum) can be a result of foreign bodies, middle ear infection, or pressure trauma to the ear. Often the patient feels pain, notices a thin bloody discharge from the ear, and has a decreased sense of hearing. If a person experiences these symptoms and thinks the eardrum may be ruptured or damaged, keep the ear dry, and seek medical care. Do not place cotton swabs, liquids, or other objects in ear.
- Acute otitis externa (swimmer's ear) is an infection of the outer ear canal that is usually caused by irritation of the canal skin that is made worse by water remaining in the ear canal after swimming or bathing. Cellulitis (skin infection) causes the ear canal to turn red and swell. The ear becomes very painful and a thin yellow fluid (infected pus) comes out of the canal. Some patients experience pain with mouth opening and chewing because of inflammation in the ear canal. The infection can spread to the side of the face or the lymph glands in the neck. Treatment of swimmer's ear includes antibiotic drops and, in severe cases, IV or oral antibiotics.
- Ear wax impaction is usually a harmless cause of decreased hearing. Wax is formed in the ear canals naturally. Individuals who over-aggressively clean their ears with cotton swabs can push wax further into the canal, impacting (compressing) it against the ear drum. Over-the-counter (OTC) products, like carbamide peroxide (Auro, Debrox, Murine Earwax Drops) can be used to clean the ear regularly. If the wax impaction is causing pain, decreased hearing or dizziness, a doctor can irrigate (flush) the wax out of the ear gently with warm water and peroxide. If a person has chronic problems with ear wax buildup, discuss long-term solutions with an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist (an otolaryngologist).
Medically reviewed by Peter O’Connor, MD; American Board of Otolaryngology with subspecialty in Sleep Medicine
MedlinePlus.gov. Ear Emergencies.