Sussex ENT: Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust
Worthing and Southlands Hospital

Ear Infections

A model of an ear

Ear infections are common.  The can affect any age group and cause significant symptoms such as:

Ear infections are categorized by which part of the ear they affect:
The outer ear: otitis externa
The middle ear: otitis media and mastoiditis
The inner ear: can cause vestibulitis


Outer Ear

Otitis Externa:

This a very common complaint that is often caused by moisture in the ear canal or irritation from cotton buds.  It is often just inflammation but can have an infective component.  The ear canal can become very swollen and discharge fluid and debris. You should see your GP as treatment with antibiotic ear drops is required.  Occasionally microsuction(link) or further treatment is needed from an ENT department. The ear needs to be kept dry and no objects should be put in the ear to relive the itching as this can worsen the condition.

Middle Ear

Acute Otitis Media:

Otits Media
This condition usually affects children who complain of irritability, temperature, earache, altered hearing and occasionally discharge from one or both ears.  It is a collection of fluid and swelling of the middle ear if the ear drum perforates the pain often eases with an associated discharge.  The ear drum nearly always heals following the infection. It is commonly a viral cause but if the symptoms persist for more than a couple of days a course of oral antibiotics may be beneficial.


This is a infection of the bone surrounding the middle ear.  This has become more uncommon following the use of antibiotics.  The person is often extremely unwell with very high temperatures and swelling behind the external ear.  It requires urgent antibiotics and admission into hospital and occasional surgery to drain the infection.

Inner ear:

These are uncommon infections usually viral which affect the balance and hearing areas of the inner ear.  They can cause long term damage such as deafness and vertigo.  Virus’ include measles, mumps and the common cold.
If you have sudden deafness or vertigo a urgent GP appointment should be made.