Ear catarrh

Ear catarrh: causes, symptoms, and treatment options

Catarrh in the ears?

A catarrh is a build-up of mucus or thick phlegm in a cavity of the body, in particular it affects the sinus, facial cavities draining into the nose. This generates a sense of blockage and difficulty in hearing or breathing.

What causes catarrh?

Catarrh is usually caused by the immune system reacting to an infection or irritation, which causes the lining of your nose and throat to become swollen and produce mucus. This can be triggered by:

  • cold or other infections
  • Hay fever or other types of allergic rhinitis
  • Non-allergic rhinitis
  • Nasal polyps

Can catarrh affect your ears?

The build up of phlegm can occur in the ear as well, causing blockages and temporary partial hearing loss. This mainly occurs in the  Eustachian Tube that connects the tympanic cavity and the nasal one and equalises the pressure. So yes, catarrh can affect your ears by making them pop and crackle.The build up of phlegm can occur in the ear as well, causing blockages and temporary partial hearing loss. This mainly occurs in the Eustachian Tube that connects the tympanic cavity and the nasal one and equalises the pressure. So yes, catarrh can affect your ears by making them pop and crackle.

What are the causes of catarrh in the ears?

The phlegm in the ears - also called tubal phlegm - is due to an inflammation that causes accumulation of mucus that is not easily drained. The main causes of catarrh in the ear are the same as the ones seen above, but in particular:

The formation of phlegm in the ears is determined by some forms of otitis that cause inflammation of the mucosa of the middle ear and the attached cavities. The mucous or seromucous exudate can be more or less abundant and partially or totally occupy the chest of the eardrum, which has all the characteristics of inflammation. Less frequently during the summer months, catarrhal otitis media have their highest incidence in winter, in full flu season.

The infectious agents that are most commonly involved in the process are Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Moraxella catarrhalis. The infection and the consequent formation of mucus in the middle ear is determined by the spread and development of the germs which, during an inflammation of the upper airways (nose and throat), through the Eustachian tube, reach the chest of the eardrum.

What are the symptoms of catharr in ears?

Symptoms related to the presence of phlegm in the ears are characterized by:

  • a feeling of full ear
  • reduced hearing capacity
  • autophony
  • tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
  • slight pain (even if, in most cases, the pain is absent)

The reduction in hearing ability is usually transitory and resolves with the resolution of the inflammatory phenomenon. In cases of chronicity or the spread of infection to the inner ear, hearing loss can be permanent.

Upon observation of the ear (otoscopy), the tympanic membrane may appear red with congestion of the hammer handle. In more advanced forms, it is possible to highlight a hydro-aerial level or a horizontal line that divides the liquid collection from the air normally present in the middle ear.

How to get rid of catarrh in ears?

The specialist examination assumes primary importance both for promptly intervening on possible hearing damage and for the possible general consequences given above all by the purulent forms. It will be up to the doctor, after the visit, to carry out the diagnosis with consequent therapy.

Anti-inflammatories and mucolytics are attack drugs. Only in the presence of fever, antibiotic therapy may need to be initiated. Nasal washes with physiological solution or sterile sea water and nasal decongestants are useful, the latter not to be used in children. Thermal therapy is a primary indication, in case of chronicity, restoring tubal permeability and trophism of the mucous membrane of the tuba and the middle ear.

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Chronic catarrh and blocked ears

When catarrh is experienced for months or years, it is defined as chronic catarrh. Causes of chronic catarrh are still uncertain, but it is possible that the catarrh may be due more to an abnormality of the feeling in the lining of the back of the nose and the throat. This could be the reason why people affected by this problem find it difficult to spit out the mucus that they are sensing at the back of the throat. 

Chronic catarrh, despite it affecting people for a long time, could not change in symptoms. In this case, monitoring from your doctor could be not necessary. Differently, if experiencing new symptoms, such as blocked nose, runny nose, impairment of smell, sinus pain, sore throat, change in your voice or difficulty with swallowing, the chronic catarrh may indicate something else.

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