What causes mastoiditis?

If you thought that an inflamed mastoid bone is some kind of new hipster cocktail, then I’m sorry to disappoint you. It’s actually a painful and potentially dangerous condition caused by an infection in the ear. But what exactly causes mastoiditis? Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty details.

The Mastoid Bone: Not Just for Show

The mastoid bone may not be as famous as its more glamorous counterparts like the femur or the skull, but it plays an important role in our anatomy. Located behind our ears, this pyramid-shaped bone contains air spaces that connect to the middle ear via a canal called the tympanic annulus.

Beautiful Bones That Can Go Bad

Like any other part of our body, bones can get infected when bacteria or viruses manage to infiltrate them [1]. When this happens in the case of mastoids, it leads to inflammation and swelling known as mastoiditis.

Ouch! A Painful Experience Awaits

Not only does mastoiditis cause pain behind your ears with intensity ranging from moderate to severe; migraines can also flare up giving throbbing pains all over your head making daily activities such as work impossible[2]. If left untreated, it can lead to complications such as hearing loss or meningitis [3].

Uninvited Guests: Bacteria & Viruses

The primary culprits responsible for causing infections are bacteria and viruses that thrive on favorable conditions such as humidity-moisture trapped inside [4],compromised immune system among others below:

Pneumococcus Loves To Party On Your Turbinates

Have you ever heard of pneumococcus? This sneaky pathogen loves nothing more than joining your nasal turbinates (those twisted structures within your nose) for a jam-packed party with their friends. And like any good party host, it doesn’t like being told to leave [5]. But when these guys get out of hand or stuck in the mastoid bone spaces, they cause severe inflammation resulting to mastoiditis

An Ear Infection Can Sneak Up On You

Mastoid bone infections typically develop as a result of a previous middle ear infection left untreated. That’s right; by not taking care of that pesky otitis media, you’re inviting its rude cousin mastoiditis over for dinner [6]. Talk about unwelcome guests.

Awe-ful Viruses Got Game Too

Remember we talked about viruses earlier? Turns out they can cause havoc too! Measles and Mumps are two viral pathogens which have been linked with causing acute infections leading up to Mastoiditis[7][8].

Smoothing Things Over: Early Diagnosis & Treatment

If caught early,mastoiditis responds well to treatment such as antibiotics and painkillers. However,delayed treatment eradicates alleviation plans,resulting into complications such as hearing loss,giddiness,cerebellar abscesses among others outlined below:

These Are The Complications From Late Detection And Treatment

Not treating an infected amstoids on time could lead to lots of interlaced problems including:

  • Hearing loss – people may notice immediate trouble understanding speech or distinguishing noise from sharp pitched sounds.
  • Dizziness – patient experience persistent spinning sensations especially after their head movements.
  • Facial weakness- asymmetrical smile,twitching eyes.. all signs indicative of facial nerve paralysis requiring immediate medical attention since this is a dangerous symptom signifying how far the disease has progressed[9].
    Cerebellar Abscesses–This painful event happens when large puss-filled cavities form behind the brain’s cerebellum area disrupting efficient coordination activities thereby influencing thought movement balance.[10]

To avoid serious complications like those mentioned above, it is essential to seek medical attention at the first sign of symptoms.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

As they say, prevention is better than cure. So, how do you prevent mastoiditis? Here are some tips:

  • Seek treatment with antibiotics for any ear infection as soon as possible
  • Always clean your outer ear properly and gently after swimming
  • Stop using cotton swabs or sharp objects inside your ears;shoving things in just tends to worsen the problem by pushing bacteria further into more sensitive spots.
  • Continuing living a healthy lifestyle will help in strengthening an already compromised immune system such facilitating organs functioning[11].


Now that we’ve explained what causes mastoiditis from bacterial and viral infections,[12] early intervention stands out as the best way to approach this condition. Avoid delays seeking medical advice , given that later detection could cause nerve lesions,cognitive problems among other irreversible complications.[13][14]. And always remember that prevention includes taking good care of yourself: avoiding close contact with sick people, keeping up hygiene practices like hand-washing frequently throughout day so germs don’t have anywhere else but outside rather than their ideal vacation spot -your body!

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