A fungal ear infection, medically known as otomycosis, is an outer ear infection that usually involves the external auditory canal and is caused by the presence of colonies of fungi from the aspergillus family.
The causes of fungal ear infection may depend on various factors such as poor cleaning of the ear canal, chronic inflammation, generic antibiotic therapy carried out for long periods of time and poor general health conditions. The development of fungi determines a peeling of the skin around the ear canal and the presence or a buildup of serous fluid. The colour of the fungal mass varies from white to yellow or black, depending on the species that caused the ear infection. The fungal species can be accurately diagnosed by examining secretion taken out from the ear canal.
Typical of the spring-summer season, otomycosis usually affects only one ear. In the early stages of the infection, symptoms may be absent, but intense itching, mild pain and a feeling of clogged ear generally occurs in the following days. Tinnitus and ear discharge can be associated with these symptoms. But what differentiates otomycosis from any other bacterial otitis externa is the presence of intense pruritus. If the tympanic membrane is undamaged, the infection is localized only in the external auditory canal; whilst in the case of a perforated eardrum, the infection can extend all the way to the middle ear.
The aim of otomycosis treatments is to remove the fungal colonization with ear canal wash and suction evacuation using antifungal medications. After removal, the ear canal may present itself as swollen, with reddened skin, irritation, discomfort and pain. The instillation of antifungal ear infection drops and daily washing with antiseptic solutions determines the disappearance of the symptoms after about 10 days. It is essential not to wash the ear canal with water and not to carry out improper cleaning manoeuvers (e.g. use of cotton buds).
Complications can be caused by a superinfection which makes therapy more complex. The resolution of the infection leads to the disappearance of hearing loss and tinnitus. However, sometimes symptoms persist in patients suffering from chronic otomycosis. In this case, being under the care of an ENT doctor might be helpful.