Fungal growth common in middle ears

Ear infections and irritations are very common, with about 10% of the population experiencing at least one episode of otitis media or similar ear pain/ infection over the course of the year.

Atsushi Muarkami et al. Middle Ear Effusion and Fungi. Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology. 2012;121(9):609-14.

Such ear infections/ pain are especially common in persons under 5 years of age, to those who had undergone multiple courses of antibiotics and/ or to those exposed to second or first hand tobacco smoke. Many otitis patients treated with antibiotics experience only temporary relief from antibiotics and often experience recurrent ear pain/ irritation a few months later.

It is commonly believed that the main causes of otitis and similar ear pain are due to bacterial or viral infections. Fungi (molds) may also play a significant role in ear infections. Several studies have reported that over 90% of patients with chronic sinusitis problems have localized fungal infections in their sinuses. Such chronic sinusitis patient often will benefit from anti-fungal medications and/or reducing exposure to indoor molds.

Fungi in the ears may cause similar inflammation and irritation as fungi in the sinuses. A recent study of 19 Japanese patients with otitis media reported that 100% of them had fungal hyphae (hyphae= vegetative parts of the fungus) in their middle ear fluid. Much more study is needed to examine the relationships between fungi and ear infections in order to develop better preventive, diagnostic and treatment strategies.

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