Middle Ear Infections

Any infection of the middle ear is referred to as otitis media.

There are three types of this infection: otitis media with effusion, chronic suppurative otitis media and acute otitis media. Bacteria usually cause acute otitis media but viruses may also be involved. Symptoms are the sudden sunset of an earache, accompanied by fever and a generally sick feeling. The acute infection often firms or follows an upper respiratory or throat infection. This is treated with antibiotics and eardrops. If these prove to be ineffective, a needle or scalpel is used to make a small hole in the eardrum allowing the infected fluid to drain out.

This infection with effusion occurs when the infectious signs of the acute infection are absent but there is fluid present in the middle ear. Most of this this happens after the infection has healed but the fluid remains. However, it can also be caused by colds, barotrauma or poor functioning of the eustachian tube Eustachian tube malfunction occurs in children with cleft palates. Patients who have had acute otitis media often retain fluid in their middle ear for one to three months after treatment. When this happens doctors may continue antibiotics or use corticosteroid medications.

When chronic suppurative otitis media is present, the ear will drain for six or more weeks. A cholesterolat may also occur. A cholesterolat is an overgrowth of the eardrum skin into the middle ear. The first treatment administered is the use of antibiotics and eardrops. If this is ineffective, doctors may resort to administrating the antibiotic intravenously. When symptoms persist, they usually begin diagnostic testing that may involve audiometry and computed tomography (CT scan). Surgery may also be necessary.

All these types of ear infections can produce complications. Acute otitis media may cause the eardrum to rupture. It can also cause mastoiditis. Mastoiditis is an infection of the bone behind the year. Meningitis is another complication of this acute infection. However, both mastoiditis and meningitis are rare. These ear infections are commonly occurring in children and acute otitis media can recur. If it recurs more than three times in six months, parents should look for other causes. These could be allergies, immune deficiencies, sinusitis, or enlarged adenoids. Two bacteria that cause acute media are Streptococus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae. There are immunizations available for these and your doctor may recommend them. Low daily doses of antibiotics may also be prescribed for weeks or in some cases even months. Another treatment is to insert tubes in the ears through the eardrum to drain the accumulated fluid from the middle ear.

The major problem connected with otitis media with effusion is hearing loss. When hearing loss occurs in a very young child the result can be a delay in speech and language development. If a child who is taking antibiotics has fluid in both ears for three months, it is recommended that ventilation tubes be inserted. This should also be done for a child who has fluid in one ear for six months. Not only are ear infections common in children but they are also the most common cause of hearing loss, therefore they need prompt treatment.