Otitis media is an inflamation of the middle ear and can occur in either one or both ears at the same time.
In general, otitis media is not serious and does not normally cause permanent hearing problems if treated properly. Most often, otitis media is cured in the home by means of medication. If your child contracts otitis media often or otitis media is not treated, it can cause permanent damage to your child's hearing.
Otitis media is caused by a virus or by bacteria that lead to an accumulation of fluid behind the eardrum. This can result from a cold, allergy or respiratory infection. The accumulation of fluid in the middle ear during otitis media causes earache, swelling and redness - which is called acute otitis media and also prevents the eardrum from vibrating properly, which typically results in (temporary) hearing problems.
Fluid that remainins in the middle ear causes serious otitis media or middle ear infection, and the condition can become chronic and result in frequent recurrences of acute infections and finally in difficulty in hearing. Otitis media can also result in eardrum ruptures.
Symptoms to look for in children (often in combination):
- Scratching or holding the ear
- Crying and irritation
- Hearing loss
- Ear drainage
If your child often suffers from otitis media (several times each year), the you must to talk to your family doctor about it. An operation called myringotomy - a minor surgical incision - can be necessary. During the operation the eardrum is opened to remove the fluid. A small ventilation tube can also be placed in the incision. Normally, the operation immediately results in better hearing.
Adults can also contract otitis media, and the treatment is the same as for children.