Do you feel liquid in your ears? Was it suddenly or after a hit? Is the pain associated? Do you think hearing loss? Do you have dizziness? A common reason for consultation in the emergency room is the sensation of having fluid in the ear, and medically, this is what is known as otorrhea. The suppuration can be watery or serous, bloody or purulent, the outflow of thick liquid and whitish (pus).
There are many causes associated with fluid leakage in the ear, and ear infections are among the most frequent. If you want to know more about this topic, we invite you to continue reading this FastlyHealarticle about “I feel liquid in my ear: why is it?”.
Table of Contents
The human ear and its functions
Before knowing what the causes of the sensation of fluid in the ear are, it is essential to understand how the ear is shaped and what are its functions of this susceptible organ are.
The ear is responsible for receiving, converting, and transmitting sounds into electrical impulses. In addition, it provides stability to the person. Sound waves follow a sensational path from the moment they are received. Its complex anatomy is divided into three parts:
- The external ear is the visible part and is also known as the auditory pinna. It is the portion of cartilage covered with skin that protrudes on both sides of the head. It is responsible for receiving sounds and taking them directly to the ear canal, connecting it with the middle ear. The outer ear reaches the eardrum. It also has specialized glands for earwax production, which allows for keeping the ear free of infections.
- The middle ear is about the size of a pea, and it is responsible for transforming sound waves into vibrations and transmitting them in turn to the inner ear. The eardrum is the membrane that separates the outer ear from the middle ear. This portion of the ear has the Eustachian tube, which allows it to adapt to changes in height, and three small bones are located just after the eardrum.
- The inner ear comprises the labyrinth or cochlea and the semicircular canals. The cochlea or labyrinth is the microphone that transforms vibrations into nerve impulses, allowing them to travel to the brain through the auditory nerve. The semicircular canals allow the balance to be maintained through the liquid content found inside.
Finally, it can be said that the ear “speaks” to the brain through this transmission of sound waves in nerve impulses.
I feel fluid in my ear: common causes.
Generally, feeling fluid in the ear is associated with causes such as:
- Otitis media: it is the infectious and inflammatory process of the middle ear. It is a fairly common condition in children under three years of age. This infection can be viral or bacterial, and the presence of smokers at home, a family history of otitis media, and attending daycare centers are relevant to risk factors. Frequently, it manifests with earache, fever, and, less regularly, otorrhea or discharge of fluid from the ear.
- Acute otitis media with perforation of the eardrum: characterized by acute pain in one or both ears due to the inflammation of all the tissues in the middle ear. Otorrhea occurs due to perforation of the eardrum. AOM or acute otitis media is standard in children with allergies, colds, excess mucus, etc.
- Exudative otitis media: this type of otitis refers to the presence of fluid in the middle ear without an infection of its own. Generally, it has few symptoms and usually subsides on its own in weeks or months. This type of otitis does not need medical treatment with antibiotics. It can affect any age and is most common in children under two years. Exudative otitis media is characterized by experiencing a plugged ear, fluid draining through the ear, pain, or earache.
- Chronic otitis media with perforation of the eardrum: fluid leakage is characteristic of this condition, pain is infrequent to appear, it frequently occurs in patients with recurrent otitis media infections. It is associated with Staphylococcus aureus, S. pneumonia, H. influenzae , etc.
- External otitis: external otitis usually affects only one ear and is related to the influence of environmental factors, humidity, and exposure to water with a high bacteria content. This type of condition is known as the swimmer’s ear. In this case, the liquid outlet is scarce and not very fluid.
- Foreign body: it is common for children to tend to introduce small objects through the ear canal. The fluid or discharge is often bloody, and slight pain may appear in these cases.
- Head injury: another probable reason for discharge from the ear is after a head injury; logically, this is associated with the medical emergency that the trauma itself represents.
Other causes of fluid in the ears
On the other hand, other possible causes of fluid leakage from the ears should be known, although these are less frequent:
- Tympanostomy – The surgical placement of a tympanostomy tube. It is a procedure that allows the fluid in the middle ear to drain, reducing the likelihood of complications. This tube is decided to place when the patient has liquid content in the ears for 3 or 4 months after an ear infection. It is inserted directly into the tympanic membrane and allows the middle ear’s ventilation.
- Ear canal cancer: its finding is rare. Its symptoms may be the same as those presented by chronic otitis externa or media, making a diagnosis more complex, including pain in the ear, discharge, tinnitus, and hearing loss. It represents 0.2% of head and neck cancers, according to the Revista de Otorrinolaringología de Chile 1.
- Cholesteatoma: cutaneous cyst located in the middle ear. Some children can be born with this cyst. If they are not treated in time, they tend to grow and damage the middle and inner ear structures, causing fluid leakage, pain, and even hearing loss. For its diagnosis, computed tomography is necessary.
- Chronic purulent otitis media: it may result from acute otitis media, characterized by persistent and chronic discharge of purulent discharge through the ear for more than six weeks. Pain may be absent, but hearing loss tends to be associated.
- Mastoiditis is an infectious process that occurs in the mastoid process, specifically in the bone located behind the ear. It happens when there are acute otitis media and it is not treated in time. Among the symptoms of mastoiditis are fever, pain around the ear, pain inside the ear, and a creamy and abundant discharge.
- Necrotizing external otitis: also known as malignant external otitis, it affects people with a weak immune system, the elderly, and those suffering from diabetes mellitus. The infectious process of malignant otitis externa extends to the temporal bone, causing this infection that can be fatal. The fluid leakage from the ear in this condition is fetid, purulent, also associated with hearing loss.
- Granulomatosis with polyangiitis: also known as Wegener’s granulomatosis, is a disease that affects blood vessels, inflaming them or generating what is known as vasculitis. It prevents the blood from circulating properly. Although it involves the sinuses, lungs, kidneys, it can also affect the eyes, skin, nerves, and ears, in which there may be fluid leakage and hearing loss. Wegener’s granulomatosis is a severe condition but treatable if diagnosed early. It is of unknown cause.
I feel fluid in my ear: warning signs.
The leakage of liquid through the ears is an alarm signal. However, you should always take into account other significant findings:
- If there is a fever.
- Whether there was a recent head injury.
- If there is erythema of the ear.
- If there is hearing loss.
- If there is vertigo or dizziness.
- If you suffer from other associated diseases, such as diabetes mellitus.
The diagnosis of any of these conditions is purely medical; the main recommendation is to go immediately to the emergency room to be evaluated; early diagnosis is essential for an effective treatment with which complications are prevented.
This article is merely informative. At FastlyHeal .com, we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor if you present any condition or discomfort.
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I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.