ZocdocAnswersWhy do I get recurring ear infections?

Question

Why do I get recurring ear infections?

My ear feels swollen inside and hurts when I pull my earlobe or lay on my right side. I get ear infections at least once or twice a year though I am not sick. What could cause these reoccurring ear infections? I take ear drops when they're prescribed but they keep coming back.

Answer

Sorry to hear about this problem. There are several things that could be causing your problems, but there is one thing that makes me especially concerned after hearing your story. I suggest you speak with your doctor soon. In people with recurring ear infections, there are times that a small bit of skin will start to grow in the middle ear. It can form a cyst that keeps growing and applies pressure locally and can erode through bones and other tissues. This is known as a cholesteatoma. One of the most common manifestations of this is with recurrent ear infections. Another, even more common problem, is eustachian tube dysfunction. Sometimes patients can go for years managing the symptoms of irregular ear infections, only to have the same problem keep popping up until they are finally diagnosed correctly. The best move would be to see if your doctor feels it is appropriate for you to meet with an ear nose and throat surgeon (AKA ENT or otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon). Specifically, an otologist would be best equipped to examine your ear and your history and determine what needs to be done next, whether that be imaging, a hearing test, etc. Please speak with your doctor about your ear.

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