Otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. It causes inflammation of the eardrum. As a result, it leads to fluid accumulation in the space after the eardrum. Also called middle ear infection, this condition is more common in children.
Although treating otitis media in children is easy and manageable, recurrent infection in adults may hint an underlying medical condition. In some cases, an ear infection may lead to hearing loss, warranting a visit to an ENT specialist in Denver, Colorado who might suggest the use of hearing aids. Here are things that you need to know about otitis media:
What Causes Otitis Media?
Bacteria cause an ear infection. But the type of infection relies on the cause and the affected part of the ear. For instance, middle ear infection comes from a condition in the respiratory tract such as a cold, a cough, or flu.
The nasal passages become inflamed, including the throat and Eustachian tube, which is the canal that connects the middle ear to the upper throat. When the tube becomes swollen, it leads to blockage of air passage, so fluid accumulates in the middle ear.
There are also risk factors that might increase the risk of having the condition. These include a family history of ear infections, bottle-fed babies, children at daycare centers, people living with cigarette smokers, cigarette smokers, people with palate problems (cleft palate), and people with chronic respiratory diseases such as cystic fibrosis or asthma.
What Are the Symptoms of Otitis Media?
The middle ear is the area behind the eardrum. The symptoms include a sudden loss of hearing and fever. In children, the common signs and symptoms are pulling or tugging the ear, irritability, restlessness, especially at night, diarrhea, coughing, runny nose, poor feeding, and loss of balance. Chronic or recurrent ear infections usually have milder symptoms than acute attacks.
What Are the Complications of Otitis Media?
Although most ear infections are easily manageable, they might also lead to complications. People who have recurrent infections can have hearing loss, mastoiditis, eardrum rupture, labyrinthitis, cholesteatoma, and, in severe cases, meningitis or the inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain.
How Are Ear Infections Diagnosed?
In diagnosing middle ear infections, the diagnostic test depends on the symptoms present. The doctor may perform a physical assessment. They may use an otoscope to visualize the inner part of the ear.
Another test to perform is audiometry using an audiometer to test for any signs of hearing loss. In some cases, if the infection has spread to nearby areas, CT scan and MRI may be requested. This way, the doctor can see the extent of the infection.
How Is Otitis Media Treated?
The treatment of otitis media focuses on eradicating the infection. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Ear infections cause extreme pain. Pain relief is recommended using painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. Lastly, prevention is better than cure, the best way to prevent ear infections is to avoid having colds and other respiratory diseases. You can have the annual vaccination for flu. Babies who are bottle-fed should be given the medicine in an upright position. Breastfeeding until at least six months old has been linked to a reduced risk of otitis media.
Ear infections can cause many possible complications. The key is to identify the problem right away and seek immediate medical attention.