Earaches and Ear Infections
Got an earache? Inflammation of the middle ear (otitis media) is the result of a middle ear infection. It can occur in one or both ears. Ear infections are most common in children but occasionally affect adults. Mid-Kansas Ear, Nose and Throat physicians most commonly see ear infections in the winter and early spring months.
Acute otitis media is caused by bacteria or viruses that enter the eustachian tube from the nose or the throat and reach the middle ear. The eustachian tube is a narrow tube that passes from the back of the nose up into the ear. When the eustachian tube is inflamed from a cold, sinus or throat infection, or an allergy attack, it is not functioning properly and may allow the infection to enter the middle ear. Infection in the middle ear causes earache, a red, inflamed eardrum, and a build-up of pus and mucus behind the eardrum.
Although ear infections cannot entirely be prevented, risks can be minimized:
- Protect your child against colds. Since otitis media often develops when a child has a cold. Wash hands frequently; do not share food, utensils or toothbrushes; wash toys regularly.
- Do not smoke around your child. Secondhand smoke increases the rate of upper respiratory infections in children, which can lead to middle ear infections and prolonged recoveries.
- Keep a child upright while feeding. Never put a child to bed with a bottle.
- Breastfeed your baby, if possible. Research shows that infants who breastfeed during the first four months of life have half as many infections as babies who do not breastfeed at all.
Recognize the symptoms:
- A feeling of blockage or pressure in the ear
- Tugging or rubbing the affected ear
- Muffled hearing
- If any of these symptoms are present, call Mid-Kansas Ear, Nose & Throat to determine the best treatment plan.
What will happen at my visit to Mid-Kansas Ear, Nose & Throat?
The doctor will examine the child’s ears to check for redness and fluid behind the eardrum, and to see if the eardrum moves in response to air pressure.
Two additional tests may be performed to give the doctor information that cannot be learned through observation alone. An audiogram measures how much hearing loss has occurred. A tympanogram measures the air pressure in the middle ear. This indicates how well the eustachian tube is functioning and determines the severity of the problem.
One or more medications, including an antibiotic, antihistamine and/or decongestant, may be prescribed. For patients unresponsive to medication or experiencing chronic ear infections, ear tubes may be recommended. With the help of your ENT specialist, you can help your child feel and hear better quickly.