Effects of ear infection on the brain

Ear infections are also called otitis media and they can become severe and cause distress, particularly in infants and children. The auditory canals of the infants are more horizontal compared to older children and adults and this is the reason why they are more susceptible to ear infections. The bacterial and viral infections that spread from the nasal passages, sinuses, throat, lungs and other areas can cause ear infections. Hearing loss can occur when delicate inner ear structure like the eardrum may be damaged in severe or prolonged infections. The brain can also be affected by the ear infection which can gain access to the brain tissues, due to the proximity and cause a number of complications.

Vertigo and imbalance;

Spinning sensation and loss of balance can be caused by vertigo or dizziness. The infections in the inner ear can cause this disorder too. The inner ear contains structures like the semicircular canals which allow the body to perceive motion and body positioning. This information is carried from the inner ear to the brain by the eighth cranial nerve, also called the vestibulocochlear nerve. A warning is given by the Merck Manual that ear infections can lead to inflammation of this nerve, and it can cause vertigo and loss of balance.


It is noted by the Merck Manual that bacterial and viral ear infections in both children and adults can lead to meningitis which is an acute inflammation of the covering of the brain. Both the infection and the inflammation involve the subarachnoid space between the middle layer, or arachnoid mater, and the thin inner layer – meninges, which surround the brain and spinal cord. Stiff neck, fever and headache are symptoms of meningitis. Infants and children may show symptoms such as being irritable and drowsy and may exhibit little appetite. In some severe cases, blood clots can be caused by meningitis who is spreading to blood vessels in the brain which can lead to a stroke. A damage, swelling and bleeding in the brain tissues can be caused too by the inflammation.

Brain Lesions;

A brain lesion or abscess can be caused by the ear infection that stems from the middle ear which can spread to the venous drainage of the brain. A brain abscess can be developed from a collection of pus to a capsule area of infection in approximately two weeks and it is a localized infection in the brain parenchyma. This brain abscess is a fatal condition and it can lead to death or permanent damage to the brain. To prevent brain lesion, the ear infection in the early stages must be treated with the right antibiotics.

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