[q1 cd=”O”]titis externa is an infection of the outer ear canal. When you look at the ear to understand where the infection occurs,you have to understand the way the ear works. The way the ear works is sound comes in through the ear canal, hits the eardrum and goes through the three bones of hearing.
The first bone of hearing is called the malleus. The second bone is the incus and the third bone of hearing is the stapes. The stapes or the third bone of hearing interfaces with the hearing organ, called the cochlea. Cochlea means snail shell in Greek and you can see it’s shaped like a snail shell. Within that, there are little receptor cells that receive the sound, turn it into a nerve signal and send the message to the brain.
In otitis externa, you have an infection of the external or outer ear. When you look at the diagram, that is an infection that is before or to include the eardrum. This is often times referred to as swimmer’s ear.
When people continually get exposure to water in their ear canal or their ear retains water, you can get an infection in the ear canal, and that is called swimmer’s ear. The other possible cause or most likely cause of outer ear infections or otitis externa is trauma. The most common source of trauma is using a q-tip or trying to clean your ear.
What happens is the q-tip or other things you use to clean the ear remove the wax from the ear canal skin. A crack develops in the ear canal skin because the wax is actually protective. It’s a physical barrier.
It prevents bacteria from going into the skin and it has an acidity or pH that protects the skin from bacteria. When it is removed, a small crack occurs and the bacteria goes into the ear canal skin and creates an outer ear infection. This is commonly associated with swelling around the ear, discharge and discomfort.
If you have any of theses symptoms, you need to be evaluated.