Otitis Media (Ear Infection)
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Otitis media is infection or inflammation located in the middle ear. About 75 percent of children have at least one episode of otitis media by the time they are three years of age. Nearly half of these children have three or more infections by the time they are age three. Otitis media can also affect adults, although it is primarily a disease that occurs most often in children.
Inflammation usually begins when infections due to sore throats, colds, or other respiratory problems, spread to the middle ear.
The following are the most common symptoms of otitis media. However, individuals may experience symptoms differently.
Common signs of otitis media in children include:
- unusual irritability
- difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
- tugging or pulling at one or both ears
- fluid draining from ear(s)
- loss of balance
- hearing difficulties
The symptoms of otitis media may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
In addition to the symptoms of otitis media listed above, untreated otitis media can result in any/all of the following:
- infection in other parts of the head
- permanent hearing loss
- problems with speech and language development
Cold and allergy medications do not appear to prevent otitis media. And, currently, there is no vaccine that can prevent the disease. However, there are certain factors that seem to increase the chances of otitis media developing in some children. These include:
- living in a home where cigarettes are smoked
- nursing with a bottle while lying down
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, the physician will inspect the outer ear(s) and eardrum(s) using an otoscope. The otoscope is a lighted instrument that allows the physician to see inside the ear. A pneumatic otoscope blows a puff of air into the ear to test eardrum movement.
A tympanometry, a test that allows for air and sound to be directed into the middle ear, may also be performed.
A hearing test may be performed for people who have frequent ear infections.
Specific treatment for otitis media will be determined by your physician based on:
- your age, overall health, and medical history
- extent of the disease
- your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the disease
- your opinion or preference
Treatment may include:
- antibiotic medication
- medication for pain
- myringotomy - surgery to insert tubes to ventilate the middle ear and keep air pressure level.
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Online Resources of Otolaryngology