Otitis Media

What is otitis media? Otitis media – or middle ear infection – is the most common cause of hearing loss among children. Typically, middle ear infections occur during winter or spring.
Otitis Media

The definition of otitis media is an inflammation of the middle ear. It 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 at 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.

What causes otitis media?

Otitis media is caused by a virus or by bacteria that lead to an accumulation of fluid behind the eardrum. This condition 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. This is called acute otitis media. Acute otitis media prevents the eardrum from vibrating properly, which typically results in (temporary) hearing problems.

Fluid that remains in the middle ear can causes serious otitis media.  Otitis media can become chronic and result in frequent recurrences of acute infections and finally in difficulty in hearing.

A middle ear infection, or otitis media can also result in eardrum ruptures.

What are the symptoms of otitis media?

Symptoms to look for in children (often in combination):

  • Scratching or holding the ear
  • Crying and irritation
  • Hearing loss
  • Fever
  • Ear drainage

Treatment of otitis media

If your child often suffers from otitis media (several times each year), then you must talk to your family doctor about it.

An operation called myringotomy - a minor surgical incision - might 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.

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