Infections and Earache
Is Otitis Media?
Otitis media means inflammation of the middle ear. The inflammation
occurs as a result of a middle ear infection. It can occur
in one or both ears. Otitis media is the most frequent diagnosis
recorded for children who visit physicians for illness. It
is also the most common cause of hearing loss in children.
otitis media is most common in young children, it also affects
adults occasionally. It occurs most commonly in the winter
and early spring months.
media is serious because of the severe earache and hearing
loss it can create. Hearing loss, especially in children,
may impair learning capacity and even delay speech development.
However, if it is treated promptly and effectively, hearing
can almost always be restored to normal.
also serious because the infection can spread to nearby structures
in the head, especially the mastoid. Thus, it is very important
to recognise the symptoms of otitis media and to get immediate
attention from your doctor.
In infants and toddlers look for:
*pulling or scratching at the ear, especially if accompanied
by the following...
young children, adolescents, and adults look for:
*feeling of fullness or pressure
*dizziness, loss of balance
*Remember, without proper treatment, damage from an ear infection
can cause chronic or permanent hearing loss.
Does the Ear Work?
The outer ear collects sounds. The middle ear is a pea sized,
air-filled cavity separated from the outer ear by the paper-thin
eardrum. Attached to the eardrum are three tiny ear bones.
When sound waves strike the eardrum, it vibrates and sets
the bones in motion that transmit to the inner ear. The inner
ear converts vibrations to electrical signals and sends these
signals to the brain. It also helps maintain balance.
middle ear contains air at the same atmospheric pressure as
outside of the ear, allowing free vibration. Air enters the
middle ear through the narrow eustachian tube that connects
the back of the nose to the ear. When you yawn and hear a
pop, your eustachian tube has just sent a tiny air bubble
to your middle ear to equalize the air pressure.
Causes Otitis Media?
Blockage of the eustachian tube during a cold, allergy, or
upper respiratory infection and the presence of bacteria or
viruses lead to the accumulation of fluid (a build-up of pus
and mucus) behind the eardrum. This is the infection called
acute otitis media. The build up of pressurised pus in the
middle ear causes earache, swelling, and redness. Since the
eardrum cannot vibrate properly, you or your child may have
the eardrum ruptures, and pus drains out of the ear. But more
commonly, the pus and mucus remain in the middle ear due to
the swollen and inflamed eustachian tube. This is called middle
ear effusion or serous otitis media. Often after the acute
infection has passed, the effusion remains and becomes chronic,
lasting for weeks, months, or even years. This condition makes
one subject to frequent recurrences of the acute infection
and may cause difficulty in hearing.
Importance of Medication
It is important that all the medication(s) be taken
as directed. Often, antibiotics to fight the infection will
make the earache go away rapidly, but the infection may need
more time to clear up. So, be sure that the medication is
taken for the full time your doctor has indicated. Other medications
that your doctor may prescribe include an antihistamine (for
allergies), a decongestant (especially with a cold), or both.
the doctor may recommend a medication to reduce fever and/or
pain. Analgesic ear-drops can ease the pain of an earache.
Other Treatment May Be Necessary?
Most of the time, otitis media clears up with proper medication
and home treatment. In many cases, however, further treatment
may be recommended by your physician. An operation, called
a myringotomy may be recommended. This involves a small surgical
incision (opening) into the eardrum to promote drainage of
fluid and to relieve pain.
heals within a few days with practically no scarring or injury
to the eardrum. In fact, the surgical opening can heal so
fast that it often closes before the infection and the fluid
are gone. A ventilation tube can be placed in the incision,
preventing fluid accumulation and thus improving hearing.
selects a ventilation tube for your child that will remain
in place for as long as required for the middle ear infection
to improve and for the eustachian tube to return to normal.
This may require several weeks or months. During this time,
you must keep water out of the ears because it could start
an infection. Otherwise, the tube causes no trouble, and you
will probably notice a remarkable improvement in hearing and
a decrease in the frequency of ear infections.
media may recur as a result of chronically infected adenoids
and tonsils. If this becomes a problem, your doctor may recommend
removal of one or both. This can be done at the same time
as ventilation tubes are inserted.
may also require treatment.
Otitis media is generally not serious if it is promptly and
properly treated. With the help of your physician, you and/or
your child can feel and hear better very soon.
to follow the treatment plan, and see your physician until
he/she tells you that the condition is fully cured.
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