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What You Need To Know About Fungal Ear Infection?



A Fungal Ear Infection, also known as otomycosis, is caused in the outer part of the ear. The outer ear is divided into three sections: 

  • Tragus
  • Helix 
  • Lobule (earlobe)

Fungal otitis externa is another name for the infection. It is more prominent in tropical and subtropical regions across the globe. It can also be caused in places that have periods of extreme heat waves and humidity. 

Otomycosis is most commonly found in the outer ear canal. The outer canal extends from the eardrum to the exterior of the head. Fungi cause almost 10% of outer ear canal infections (otitis externa). In some cases, they may also infect the middle ear. 

What Causes Fungal Ear Infection?

  • Fungi: Otomycosis is caused by many types of fungi. Aspergillus and Candida are the most fungi which cause fungal infections. Aspergillus can be found both indoors and outdoors. Every day, we inhale Aspergillus spores. However, for some, it can even cause health problems such as infections of the lungs and severe allergic reactions. Candida is a yeast that lives on the human skin as well as inside the body, including the mouth, throat, and gut. Some species of Candida, such as oral thrush, can cause candidiasis infection.
  • Use of Antibiotics and Steroids: Lately, there has been a sharp rise in the cases of otomycosis. According to experts, this rise is attributed to the widespread use of antibiotics, steroids, and antibiotic drops. According to a survey of 26 people suffering from otomycosis, all of them had used antibiotic drops containing ofloxacin to help prevent ear discharge. Antibiotics, according to some researchers, impact the pH level of the ear canal and remove any rival bacteria, making it suitable for the fungus to grow.
  • Compromised Immune Systems: Otomycosis is more common in people with weak immune systems. Such people may experience more complications and relapses of otomycosis. A serious complication occurs when this infection spreads to the skull's temporal bone. It can be fatal if left untreated. Hence, such people should recognise fungal ear infection symptoms early on.

Risk Factors

Fungal ear infections usually affect only one ear at any given time. It affects at least 10% of people at a certain point in their lives, with adults post-30s being the most affected.

Some possible factors that lead to higher chances of getting a fungal ear infection include:

  • Letting the water into the ears while swimming
  • Injuring the ear canal by cleaning it with cotton swabs
  • Using uncleaned hearing aids or earplugs for a long time
  • Introducing irritants into the ear, such as any type of dye or hair spray

Some people may be more prone to such fungal infections than others. Infections are more common in people who have skin conditions, such as eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, or psoriasis, or allergies.

Fungal Ear Infection Symptoms

Otomycosis can cause the following symptoms:

  • Itching in the ears
  • Ear discharge of variable colour (yellow, white, grey, brown, or green)
  • Hearing impairment
  • Intense ringing or tinnitus

Specific health conditions, such as the ones listed below, may also lead to higher chances of getting a fungal ear infection.

Also, people who had a recent transplant or someone undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy become more prone to fungal ear infections.

Otomycosis Prevention

A few things one can do at home to prevent otomycosis include: 

  • When swimming, use a swim cap.
  • After swimming, use a towel to dry the ears.
  • To remove moisture from ears, use a dryer on a low setting. Keep the dryer at a safe distance from the ears.
  • Do not clean your ears with the help of cotton swabs or other hard objects. This can cause ear wax and debris to move deeper into the ear canal.
  • Equal parts of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar should be combined. A few drops of this solution should be placed in the ears after swimming. If the eardrum has been perforated or torn, do not use this solution.

Fungal Ear Infection Treatment

After the fungal ear infection symptoms have been recognised, many options for treatment are available. The treatment varies from person to person. It is also chosen based on the intensity of the infection.

  • Cleaning : The first treatment is to clear debris from the ear. There can be various methods for this. Some healthcare professionals may choose to rinse, while others may choose a suction tool. Clearing the ear of debris allows the medication to work properly. After removing the build-up in your ear, your practitioner will clean and dry it. This helps to keep the fungus from regrowing.
  • Ear Drops: Clotrimazole is a common antifungal ear drop used as a fungal ear infection treatment. Other medications, namely, miconazole, econazole, and amphotericin B can also be used.
  • Medications for the Skin: An antifungal topical ointment is used to remove the fungus if it spreads through the outer and inner ear. This also reduces fungal ear infection symptoms. Clotrimazole, fluconazole, and ketoconazole are some topical medications used to treat such infections. A fungal ear infection can also be treated with a solution containing 2% of acetic acid and 70% of isopropyl alcohol.
  • Medications Taken Orally: If topical ointments or ear drops do not work for otomycosis caused by Aspergillus, your doctor may prescribe oral medication. Some fungi are often resistant to compounds such as azole. If an infection is particularly severe or takes longer than expected to heal, oral medications will be used.

Otomycosis is rarely dangerous. Fungal ear infection treatment usually includes over-the-counter and prescription medications. So, if you suspect a fungal ear infection, contact your primary care physician. They can diagnose it and help you clean your ears, so you can begin treatment. 
Because of the unpleasant symptoms, dealing with a fungal ear infection can be painful. But the fact remains that if you seek treatment right away, the infection should clear up quickly.

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