Otitis Media : a.k.a. Ear Infection
Your ear hurts with a dull, throbbing, heavy pain. Or maybe it’s a sharp, sudden pain—almost like someone is trying to drill a hole through your ear. When you visit a doctor they will most likely diagnose your symptoms as an ear infection. However, how can you tell if your six-month-old child has an ear infection? What do you do if your child has an ear infection?
The ear is made up of three parts; the outer ear (which is the part of your ear you see), the middle ear (the part right behind your ear drum), and the inner ear (where the cochlea is located, which converts sound vibrations into electrical signals). Ear infections occur when bacteria gets caught in the middle ear behind the ear drum, often after a cold or other upper respiratory sickness. Children are more likely to get ear infections than adults for a couple reasons; their immune systems are not as developed and their ears have more narrow and horizontal Eustachian tubes which can get inflamed easily and prevent drainage. Eustachian tubes are the tubes that connect the ear with the throat.
Most children who get ear infections are very young; in fact, most children will have had at least one ear infection by the time they’re three years old. If your child is too young to tell you that their ear hurts, watch for these common symptoms to know if your child has an ear infection.
- Tugging on the ear
- Trouble sleeping
- Recent cold, flu, or other upper respiratory illness
- Fluid draining from the ear
- Problems with balance
- Trouble hearing quiet sounds
Symptoms in Adults
- Ear pain
- Drainage from the ear
- Trouble hearing
When to See a Doctor
Some ear infections will improve without any medical help. However, if your ear pain has persisted for more than 24 hours or your child has recently had a cold, give our office a call. One of the doctors in our office will look into you or your child’s ear with a medical instrument called a pneumatic otoscope. This instrument allows the doctor to see behind the ear drum to gauge how much fluid is trapped there. If it is determined that your child has an ear infection, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to help the ear infection leave as soon as possible.
If you experience sudden hearing loss without pain, do not wait to see a doctor. Sudden hearing loss may be an indication of a more severe condition that needs to be treated right away.
Recurring Ear Infections
If your child experiences several ear infections every year, Dr. Peterson or Dr. McMaster may recommend a surgical procedure that puts a ventilation tube into the ear to improve drainage.
It’s no fun to live in pain. Give our office a call today if you think you or your child has an ear infection!