What causes otitis externa (OE)?

Updated: Mar 09, 2020
  • Author: Ariel A Waitzman, MD, FRCSC; Chief Editor: Ravindhra G Elluru, MD, PhD  more...
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Otitis externa (OE) is an inflammation or infection of the external auditory canal (EAC), the auricle, or both. [1, 2, 3] It is a common disease that can be found in all age groups. [4] OE usually represents an acute bacterial infection of the skin of the ear canal (most commonly attributable to Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Staphylococcus aureus [7] ) but can also be caused by other bacteria, viruses, or a fungal infection (see Pathophysiology and Etiology).

Several factors can contribute to EAC infection and the development of OE, including the following [8] :

  • Absence of cerumen
  • High humidity
  • Retained water in ear canal
  • Increased temperature
  • Local trauma (eg, use of cotton swabs or hearing aids)

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