Otomycosis (ear fungus) is a fungal infection in the ears that tends to be a problem for people who live in warm areas of the world. Avid swimmers, individuals who suffer from diabetes, or people who have chronic medical and skin conditions can also experience ear fungus.
Otomycosis is also called mycotic otitis externa or Singapore ear. The infection is usually on the external part of the ear. Aspergillus or Candida is commonly fungi associated with a fungus of the ear, but there are others. Most of the fungi are species that exist in the environment around us, so it is rather easy to come in contact with it. Keep in mind that coming in contact with fungi doesn’t mean that you will automatically get otomycosis ear. If you have a weak immune system, you are at a higher risk of getting ear fungus if you come in contact with fungi.
Causes of otomycosis (ear fungus)
As we have established, otomycosis causes are related to various fungi. It sounds surprising, but there are nearly 60 different species of fungi that lead to this type of infection. There are cases where bacteria combine with the fungi and the infection becomes worse.
Since fungus likes to grow in hot, moist areas, it is common in tropical regions. For this reason, it is also more likely to happen to a person in the summer months. Swimming in contaminated water is one way that people can contract otomycosis, but people who swim in clean water have also contracted ear fungus. If you have a trauma or injury to your ear or suffer from the skin condition known as eczema, it could increase your chances of getting otomycosis. People with compromised immune systems who get ear fungus tend to require treatment a lot longer and often find that the infection recurs.
Symptoms of otomycosis (ear fungus)
There are a number of otomycosis symptoms that can indicate that you need to seek medical attention. Some of the signs and symptoms can be distressing, but going to a doctor as soon as possible can ease the discomfort both physically and psychologically.
Here are some of the typical otomycosis (ear fungus) symptoms:
- Difficulty hearing
- Redness in external section of the ear canal
- Feeling of fullness in the ear
- Discharge of fluid from the ears (white, yellow, black, gray, or green)
- Ringing in the ear
- Flaky skin
- Narrowing of external ear canal
- Plugged ear
There are situations where both ears can have a fungal infection at the same time; however, it is common for people to experience symptoms in just one ear. When it does occur in both ears and the ears feel plugged, some people mistake the condition for going deaf. It is often the swelling and thick fluid discharge that hampers hearing.
Diagnosis of otomycosis (ear fungus)
If you experience pain, fluid discharge, or hearing difficulty, you should see a doctor immediately. The quicker you receive a proper diagnosis, the sooner you can start treatment and start feeling like yourself again.
A diagnosis will only be made after a doctor has reviewed your medical history and conducted a thorough physical examination. Normally an otoscope, which is a device used to look inside the ears will be used. A swab of your ear may also be taken and sent to a laboratory so it can be tested. The test looks at organisms under a microscope. This can help detect if there are fungi involved and what kind of fungi it might be. Treatment is usually based on the type of fungi an individual has.
Treatment for otomycosis (ear fungus)
When someone has been diagnosed with otomycosis, their mind quickly shifts to ear fungus removal. There are five main ways that medical experts normally address otomycosis treatment. The list below explains them:
- Cleaning: This is considered a good initial step, as cleaning the ear fungus from the affected ear can allow for better penetration of other treatments, including ear drops.
- Eardrops: Some eardrops contain antifungal agents, such as ketoconazole or econazole, to name just a couple.
- Antifungal agents: Some antifungal agents are topical, while others, such as itraconazole, are tablets. Tablets are usually prescribed for severe cases.
- Aluminum acetate: This is a liquid that has been known to be effective in treating ear fungus when used at least three times daily for at least a week.
- Hydrogen peroxide: This can be used to soften the hard crust that builds up as a result of the infection. Removing the crust allows for other topical treatments to penetrate the ear.
- Oral medications: These medications are not for everyone, especially those who are suffering from liver disease, but some examples include fluconazole and ketoconazole.
Despite what many people think, antibiotics do not kill fungal growth. In fact, they can make fungal infections worse. It is also important to know that cleaning the ear when you have a fungal infection is not as easy as you might think. Ear fungus treatment is best left to a medical professional.
Cleaning fungus from the ear can perforate the eardrum and create other problems. A doctor will use a special suction cup to remove built-up material. It can be especially risky for people who are suffering from diabetes mellitus to take on the cleaning themselves as they have a higher chance of spreading the infection through the ear into the inner ear and even to the base of the skull.
Home remedies for otomycosis (ear fungus)
There are some home remedies that can be used to treat otomycosis or ear fungus. Since moist environments promote fungal infections, keeping the ear dry can be important. One way to do this is to use a hairdryer, but be careful not to burn yourself. Using cotton swabs should be avoided because they can actually scratch the ear canal and make it more prone to ear infections.
Vinegar and alcohol solution can also be used to treat ear fungus. The alcohol helps evaporate any moisture and disinfects the skin. The acidity in the vinegar can reduce the growth of fungus in the ear. A homemade solution of equal parts of alcohol and vinegar has been known to relieve the symptoms of ear fungus when the infection is in its early stages.
Prevention of otomycosis (ear fungus)
While ear fungus might not be life-threatening in the majority of cases, it can be uncomfortable and annoying. To prevent otomycosis, leave a small amount of earwax in the ear canal since this has a natural anti-fungal property. Additionally, when you shower or swim, make sure you dry your ears really well with a towel. Turning your head to each side and pulling on the earlobe in different directions can help draw water out.
We have already mentioned using a hair dryer on low speed. Remember to hold it several inches away from your ear. After swimming, you can put a few acetic acid eardrops in your ears. Using earplugs when swimming can also help prevent fungal infections. Lastly, avoid scratching your ears as it will compromise the skin and make it more susceptible to fungus invasion.
For the most part, antifungal treatments are enough to get rid of ear fungus. Some people don’t respond well to treatments and find that they experience chronic fungus-related ear infections. Preventing fungi from taking a hold of one or both of your ears, to begin with is smart, particularly if you have other health conditions.