Otitis Media

Otitis Media

In medical terms a common ear infection is called otitis media. It is an infection that occurs in the space behind the eardrum.

Ear infections are caused by bacteria or viruses. They infect and trap fluid behind the eardrum, causing pain, congestion and swelling of the ear drum. Many times an ear infection occurs after a bout of cold/flu or some respiratory infections or even an allergy. Children are more likely to get ear infections, rather than adults. Ear pain, fluid draining from ear, hearing loss and fever are some of the symptoms of an ear infection. A physical ear exam by the ENT doctor can determine the type of ear infection. Tympanometry, hearing test are some of the other tests that can be done for a detailed evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

This happens due to quite a few factors. The Eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the back of the throat. A bacterial or viral infection causes the tube to swell and become blocked, which keeps the normally produced fluids to build up in the middle ear instead of being able to be drained away. The trapped fluid can then become infected causing an ear infection. The Eustachian tube in children is shorter and with less slope, than adults, making it easier to become clogged and more difficult to drain. Secondly, children have more trouble fighting infections. Enlarged adenoids also interfere with the proper working of the Eustachian tube.

Most ear infections do not cause any long-term problems but if left untreated it can have adverse effects. There can be some temporary loss of hearing which could in turn affect a child’s speech and language development because to learn a child needs to hear. Long-lasting fluid in the ear can cause a tear in the eardrum. If the tear doesn’t heal on its own, surgery may be needed. The infection if left untreated or not fully resolved can spread beyond the ear to the brain and spinal cord.

Swimming is okay if one does not have an ear perforation (tear) or have fluid coming out of the ear. Air travel is safe and so is being at high altitudes. There could some temporary pain during take-off and landing, which can be managed by swallowing fluids or chewing a gum.