What Causes Ear Infections and How to Prevent Them?

It’s amazing how some of the smallest body parts can end up causing us the MOST pain! Have you ever tried to sleep with a toothache, or try to relax with a painful hangnail? A sore on your tongue can be incredibly painful to the point where you can’t eat!

Ear infections are definitely one of the worst! The pain in your ear can be bad enough to prevent you from sleeping properly, and it can interfere with a healthy life. In order to know how to avoid them, it’s vital to know what causes ear infections in the first place.

On this page, we’ll answer the following questions:

  • What are the causes of ear infections?
  • What causes ear infections in babies?
  • What causes ear infections in adults?
  • How are ear wax and ear infection connected?
  • What can I do to prevent ear infection?

By the end of this page, you’ll know everything you need to in order to protect your ears and reduce your risk of ear infections…

How Do You Get an Ear Infection?

How can you tell you’ve got an ear infection? The symptoms of ear infections are pretty noticeable! Here are a few indications you may have an infection of your middle ear:

  • There is an ache or pain inside your ear
  • You’ve lost hearing
  • It feels like there is something pressing on your ear canal
  • Pus or pus-like liquid is draining from your ear

If so, you’ve got an ear infection!

Note: Pus-like leakage and extreme fussiness are the two primary symptoms indicating ear infections among babies.

An ear infection basically is an infection of viruses or bacteria inside your middle ear – the part of the ear just behind your eardrum. When bacteria or viruses infect your middle ear, they can cause swelling and fluid buildup. This is the pressure and pain that you feel in your ear. The inflammation and fluid build-up can affect your hearing as well.

There are two basic types of ear infections:

  • Acute infections are short, but they can be very painful. They are a short-term infection that clears up after a few days.
  • Chronic infections may not be as painful, but they will recur time and again. They are the worst kind, as they can increase your risk of middle and inner ear damage. If the infection is not treated, it may lead to permanent hearing loss.

But why is this happening? Why are you suffering from an ear infection?

What Can Cause an Ear Infection

In order to take steps to solve your problem, it’s vital to know what’s causing it in the first place! This means understanding what causes ear infections in the first place.

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Here’s a hint: it all comes down to air flow…

You see, your middle ear is connected to your nose via your Eustachian tube. This tube is designed to allow air to flow through the middle ear, keeping it ventilated and clean. But if the Eustachian tube gets blocked, the air flow is reduced, and the middle ear suffers.

The normally dry middle ear turns damp, warm, and stagnant, essentially becoming the perfect place for bacteria and viruses to grow. Anything that blocks the Eustachian tube can contribute to a higher risk of ear infections.

But what could block your Eustachian tube and increase your risk of infections?

Here are a few of the main causes of ear infections:


When you suffer from allergies, your sinuses may swell up. This swelling will block off the Eustachian tube, preventing air flow.

Babies and children, in particular, are susceptible to ear infections as a result of allergies, as their Eustachian tube is immature and soft, thus it is blocked more easily.


If you have a cold, inflammation is definitely a common side effect. Your sinuses may swell up, leading to a blockage of your Eustachian tube – and thus, a higher risk of ear infections.

If the cold is viral or bacterial, there is a very high risk of the pathogens traveling up the Eustachian tube (before it’s blocked) and infecting your middle ear.

Adenoid Problems  

If your adenoids (small tissue near your tonsils) become infected, they may swell up. Your adenoids are designed to trap viruses and bacteria, but if they get infected, they can spread the infection to other parts of your body – including your ear.


Smoking isn’t just going to affect your lungs and throat, but it can wreak havoc with your ears as well!

Smoking can irritate your upper airways, including your nose. When irritated, your upper airways begin to produce extra mucus as a protection. This excess mucus can plug your Eustachian tube, leading to a higher risk of infections.

Excess Mucus Production

If your body is producing more mucus in order to combat colds, allergies, or irritation of your upper airways, the chance of blockage of the Eustachian tube is much higher.

Bacteria/Viruses in Your Ear

There are a host of pathogens living in your ear canal, but they are usually kept under control by your immune system.

But if they begin to multiply out of control (as a result of reduced immunity, excess moisture, or an increase in their food supply: ear wax), they may cause an infection of your outer ear. The longer the infections lasts, the more likely it is to spread to your middle ear.

How to Prevent Ear Infection

Now that you understand ear infections and their causes, what next? How can you take steps to reduce your risk of infections in the future?

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Here are some tips to help you prevent ear infections:

Protect Yourself

Remember, there is a VERY clear link between allergies/colds/infections and ear infections. In order to reduce your risk of ear infections, it’s vital that you boost your immune system and protect yourself from all manner of illnesses, disease, and infections. Eat foods that will enhance immunity, do exercise, and sleep well.

Treat Your Illnesses

If you’re sick, take the proper medication to deal with the problem! Don’t let your allergies go unchecked, but get a prescription that will control/manage them. If you’ve got a cold, a cough, the flu, or other illnesses, visit your doctor and get the right treatment.

This will reduce your risk of secondary infections, and will restore your body to full health before the infections spread to other, sensitive places–like your ears.

Reduce Risk Factors

Quit smoking immediately, and try to reduce your exposure to cigarette smoke. Avoid anything that would compromise your immune function. Take extra care of yourself as you recover from your cold, cough, flu, or allergy.

Keep Your Ears Clean

This is one of the most important ways to reduce your risk of ear infections, and one of the easiest!

To know how to clean your ears properly, ask your doctor for advice on cleaning. Avoid inserting cotton swabs into your ears  (Yes, you can get an ear infection from Q-tips!), and clean your ears on a regular basis (2-4 times per month) using mineral oil, warm water, or hydrogen peroxide.

Or, try the Oto-Tip, a safe and easy at-home ear cleaning device that will remove wax without irritating your ear or increasing your risk of infections.

Ear infections can be painful, but they can do long-term damage to your ear if you’re not careful. With the information above, you’ll be aware of the signs of an ear infection.

It will be easier to care for your ears and keep them clean and healthy. In the long run, you’ll have much happier ears!

3 thoughts on “What Causes Ear Infections and How to Prevent Them?

  • I haven¦t checked in here for some time since I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are great quality so I guess I will add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it my friend 🙂

  • Can someone please help me? I have had at least 10 ear infections since the end of sophomore year (I am a senior now) and I have literally tried everything. Antibiotics, over the counter remedies, heck I have a T-tube in the ear that keeps getting infected. It can’t be me being dehydrated because I have been drinking a lot of water, especially during weightlifting, and I know for a fact that I am not sick. Can someone please help me with my chronic ear infections?

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