The infection is due to a blockage of the eustachian tube. This can happen when a person has a cold, an allergy, or an upper respiratory infection. When the bacteria or a virus is present, this can lead to a build-up of pus and mucus behind the eardrum. This type of infection is called acute otitis media.
The implications of the pressurized pus build-up include: middle ear pain, redness, and swelling. Hearing problems may also occur because the eardrum will not vibrate properly.
There are times when the eardrum can rupture, and this can lead to pus draining out of the ear. However, it is more common for the mucus and pus to remain in the middle ear since the eustachian tube is swollen and inflamed. If this happens, it is called middle ear effusion or serous otitis media.
Oftentimes, after the acute infection passes, the effusion will still remain for a period of time— weeks, months, or years. If this happens, frequent recurrences of the acute infection may occur, which may eventually cause difficulty in hearing or other hearing problems.
Ever wonder how the ear works? We’re here to tell you…
The outer ear: the part of the ear that collects all of the sounds.
The middle ear: this is the pea-sized part of the ear, which is an air-filled cavity. It is separated from the outer ear by the paper-thin eardrum.
There are 3 little bones inside of the middle ear.
The sound waves will strike the eardrum, creating vibrations. The vibrations set the bones in motion that transmit to the inner ear.
Then the inner ear will convert the vibrations into electrical signals, which will get sent to the brain.
Pretty amazing, right?
Well when the middle ear is healthy and working properly, there will be the same amount of atmospheric pressure inside the middle ear as the air outside of the ear. This allows free vibration. The air will enter into the middle ear through the narrow eustachian tube that connects the back of the nose to the ear.
If the ear is not working properly, then problems could arise (i.e. ear infection, etc). Ear infection symptoms for infants and toddlers:
pulling or scratching at the ear
Ear infection symptoms for adults, children, and adolescents:
nausea or vomiting
feeling of fullness or pressure
If you do not seek a proper diagnosis and receive effective treatment, an ear infection can cause chronic or permanent hearing loss.
At the ENT doctor’s office, the doctor will use an otoscope to assess the ear. He or she will check for any redness in or near the ear region, fluid behind the eardrum, and whether or not the eardrum moves. These are all typical signs of an ear infection.
In addition, the ENT doctor might perform 2 other tests:
Tympanogram: This test will measure the air pressure in the middle ear. This will help to determine how well the eustachian tube is working, and also how well the eardrum can move.
Audiogram: This test will determine if hearing loss has occurred. During the test, various tones and pitches will be presented.
Treatment options include:
placement of pressure-equalization (PE) tubes
removal of infected adenoids or tonsils
If prescribed, it is very important to take the medication(s) as directed. It is also very important to keep follow-up appointments with your ENT doctor as directed.
The antibiotics will fight the infection to make the earache go away as fast as possible. There are times, however, when the infection may need more time to clear up.
In addition to antibiotics, your doctor may prescribe an antihistamine (for allergies), a decongestant (especially with the common cold), or both.
If you have a high fever and/or pain, the doctor may recommend a different medication.
If needed, special ear drops may be recommended and/or prescribed.
After taking your medication(s), if your symptoms do not clear up, or if you have questions about your medication or your child’s medication, call our ENT doctors.
If you or your child experiences a few episodes of acute otitis media within a short period of time, or hearing loss, or chronic otitis media lasts for more than 3 months, then placement of ventilation tubes may be necessary. The ventilation tubes are called pressure-equalization (PE) tubes.
The placement requires a short surgical procedure. A small incision is made in the eardrum. Then all of the fluid is suctioned out, and a tube is placed within the eardrum.
Eventually the tube will fall out on its own, and the eardrum will heal. After this procedure, patient’s hearing typically improves and further infections decrease.
Otitis media may recur because of chronically infected adenoids and tonsils. If needed, your ENT doctor might recommend removal of the infected tonsils and/or adenoids via ear surgery. If this is recommended, the removal can be completed during the procedure when the ventilation tubes are placed.
If you need ear infection treatment (possibly ear surgery), call either of our offices today (Suwanee/Johns Creekor Lawrenceville) to schedule your appointment. We look forward to providing the treatment you need to relieve your symptoms.