Otitis Media

Otitis Media, Chronic Ear Infections

Otitis media is an ear infection. Three out of four children experience otitis media by the time they are three years old. In fact, ear infections are the most common illnesses in babies and young children. Otitis media usually occurs when viruses and/or bacteria get inside the ear and cause an infection. It often is the result of another illness, such as a cold. If your child gets sick, the illness might affect his or her ears. When the ears are infected, the eustachian tubes become inflamed and swollen. The adenoids can also become infected.

The eustachian tubes are inside the ear. They keep air pressure stable in the ear. These tubes also help supply the ears with fresh air.

The adenoids are located near the eustachian tubes. Adenoids are clumps of cells that fight infections.

Swollen and inflamed eustachian tubes often become clogged with fluid and mucus from a cold. If the fluids plug the openings of the eustachian tubes, air and fluid are trapped inside the ear. These tubes are smaller and straighter in children than they are in adults. This makes it harder for fluid to drain out of the ear and is one reason that children get more ear infections than adults.

Ear infections cause pain, hearing loss, and in young children can affect language development and balance. Chronic or recurrent infections are treated by a minor five-minute outpatient procedure called myringotomy, usually accompanied by tube placement. Indications are five or more infections in one year, persisent fluid in the middle ear space for three months, acute infection not treatable after several antibiotics, and hearing loss.

The procedure usually reduces infections by 80 percent and normalizes hearing. The tubes stay in place for about one year and then typically fall out. The procedure can be repeated at that time if infections recur.

For more information about otitis media, Dr. Michael Pickford or Gwinnett ENT, please call us at 678-312-7390.