Fungal ear infection, medically called otomycosis, is an infection of the outer ear caused by a fungus. The outer ear has three different parts: the tragus, the helix, and the lobe (earlobe).
A fungal ear infection can affect all three parts of the ear. It can also affect the ear canal, which connects the outer ear to the eardrum. However, fungal infections of the ear canal are the most common form of otomycosis.
Fungal ear infections usually occur in one ear. It is believed that at some point in their lives they affect up to 10% of the population, and in most cases they occur in adults over 30 years of age.
Symptoms of a yeast infection in the ear
Symptoms of a yeast infection in the ear include:
- Ear discharge can vary in color (yellow, white, gray, brown, or green)
- Hearing loss
- Ringing in the ears ( tinnitus )
Your ears can also become red, swollen, and inflamed. The skin of the affected ear can also peel off.
When to contact a healthcare provider
Fungal ear infections are unlikely to go away without treatment. If you have any symptoms, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
The cause of this type of ear infection is fungi. There are many different genera of fungi that can cause this disease. Two that most often cause fungal ear infections are Candida and Aspergillus .
Candida also causes most cases of yeast infections, while Aspergillus can cause allergic reactions, lung infections, and infections of other organs.
Although people come into contact with mushrooms regularly, even daily, most of them do not have any health problems. However, people with weakened immune systems may be more susceptible to yeast infections.
Having certain medical conditions, including the following, can increase your risk of developing a yeast infection in the ear:
- Eczema or other skin conditions
People who have recently had a transplant, or those who are receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy, may also be more susceptible to ear infections.
Research has shown that certain geographic or lifestyle factors can play a role as well. For example, because fungi thrive in hot and humid places, people who live in tropical climates with high humidity may be at greater risk.
Other factors that can increase your risk of a yeast infection in the ear include:
- How much sulfur is in the ear?
- Ear injury caused by hearing aids or cotton swabs
- Swimming, surfing or other water sports.
- Frequent use of medications such as topical antibiotics or steroids.
The number one risk factor for a yeast infection in the ear
Research has shown that the most common risk factor for yeast ear infections is the habit of cleaning your ears with cotton swabs, wooden toothpicks, or metal toothpicks.
To determine if an ear infection is caused by a fungus, your healthcare provider will examine your medical history and any symptoms you have. They will also do a physical exam with an otoscope, a backlit device used to get a better view of the ear. They will look for signs of infection in the ear canal and eardrum.
If there is fluid, discharge, or any other buildup in your ear, your doctor will collect a sample and then send it to the lab. This is done to determine if the ear infection is bacterial or fungal. Both infections show similar symptoms, and knowing what causes an ear infection will make treatment more effective.
Cultures are often unnecessary because fungal infections are classic in appearance and shape.
There are many different treatment options for fungal ear infections. Treatment is likely to differ from patient to patient and will depend on the severity of the infection.
The first step in the treatment process is to remove debris from the ear. There are different tools for this. Some healthcare professionals may choose to rinse, while others may use a suction tool.
Cleaning the ear allows the medicine to do its job. Once your doctor has removed the buildup in your ear, they will clean and dry your ear. This helps prevent the fungus from growing back.
Antifungal ear drops for fungal ear infections are usually clotrimazole. However, other types of medications such as econazole, miconazole, and amphotericin B can be used. Clotrimazole is effective both in treating the infection and preventing it from recurring.
If the infection affects the inside of the outer ear and the outside of the ear, a topical antifungal ointment can help eliminate the fungus and reduce symptoms. Topical medications for these infections include clotrimazole, fluconazole, and ketoconazole.
Research has also shown that solutions containing 2% acetic acid plus 90 cubic centimeters (cm) of 70% isopropyl alcohol can effectively treat a yeast infection in the ear.
If a yeast infection in the ear does not respond to topical treatment or ear drops, your doctor may prescribe an oral medication, especially if Aspergillus is causing the infection . This type of fungus can be resistant to azole compounds.
Oral medications will also be the treatment if the infection is particularly severe or takes longer than normal to heal. Over-the-counter medications can help with pain and inflammation.
Treatment for a yeast infection in the ear can last up to four weeks. During this time, symptoms will continue to improve and medications will help clear the infection.
A yeast infection in the ear is generally not a serious condition, but in some rare cases, it can lead to complications. These complications include:
- Broken eardrum
- Hearing loss
- Infection of the temporal bones on the sides and base of the skull.
- Fungal mastoiditis (inflammation of the bone near the ear)
- Inflammation of the brain ( encephalitis )
While these complications are rare, they can be serious or even life-threatening, so it is important to seek immediate treatment if you suspect you have a yeast infection in your ear.
The best ways to prevent the development of the condition are:
- Make sure there is a small amount of wax in your ear to help prevent fungal growth.
- Wearing earplugs while swimming
- Dry your ears thoroughly after bathing and swimming with a tissue or hair dryer on a cool low setting.
- Be careful not to scratch the skin around the ears or inside the ear.
- Avoid using cotton swabs in the ears.
Yeast infections in the ear can be difficult to cope with due to unpleasant symptoms. The good news is that if you seek medical attention, the infection will likely clear up quickly.
You are more likely to get a yeast infection in the ear if you have a weakened immune system or if you live in hot, humid climates. Maintaining personal hygiene, keeping your ears dry, and avoiding cotton swabs to clean your ears are effective ways to prevent this infection.
Get the word of drug information
Fungal ear infections are rarely serious. It responds well to treatment and does not usually lead to complications. This usually requires treatment with over-the-counter medications and prescriptions, so if you suspect you have a yeast infection in your ear, see your doctor for an evaluation. They can diagnose your condition and help you clean your ears to begin treatment if you have a yeast infection in your ear.
This infection may not always be preventable, but there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting it. One way is to keep the cotton swabs away from your ears. Make sure your ears are dry and avoid over-cleaning your ears.