Experts say that the most common reason behind an earache is the so-called otitis media. Outside the realm of medicine, it is known as middle ear infection. The middle ear is that space at the back of the eardrum where the 3 tiny bones that pick up sound waves can be found. Anyone can have this kind of infection. However, it is more common in infants between 6 and 15 months. It is also said that up to 75% of otitis media cases involve kids below 10 years of age.
The reason why this form of infection is more common in kids is this: they have narrower Eustachian tubes. Your Eustachian tube is a tiny passage that connects your middle ear to your pharynx — a cavity found behind your nose and mouth, leading to the esophagus. Since the Eustachian tubes of kids are narrower, they are more prone to getting blocked and infected.
Usually, a middle ear infection tends to heal on its own in 3 to 5 days. However, parents are strongly advised to take their children to the doctor if the signs and symptoms do not seem to improve in 2 to 3 days. Let us take a look at some very important matters concerning middle ear infection:
Middle Ear Infection Causes
This health issue happens when the Eustachian tubes become inflamed or blocked, causing the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear. Such blockage can be due to several different factors. Some of them include: a cold, sinus infection, flu, enlarged or infected adenoids (mass of soft lymphatic tissues behind the nose and throat), and allergies. Cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke may also trigger the problem.
In infants, the blockage of the Eustachian tubes is commonly brought about drinking while lying down. It is a good idea to avoid feeding the baby while he or she is in a supine position. If possible, experts recommend for you to provide breast milk to your baby rather than infant formula to prevent middle ear infection from happening.
Other Risk Factors
Aside from the ones already mentioned above, there are a few other things that may increase the risk of an adult, children or infant of having otitis media. Exposure to air pollution is one of them. Another is being in a cold climate. It is said that climate and altitude changes may also increase the likelihood of having the ear infection. Experts say that genetics may also be a role player in the increased susceptibility to middle ear infection.
Signs and Symptoms of Middle Ear Infection
Adults and older children may complain of an earache as well as slight loss of hearing. Feeling sick or feverish is not unlikely since there is an infection going on in the middle ear.
Parents should be on the lookout for some signs that may indicate that their infants have middle ear infection. A baby suffering from it may have fever. He or she tends to be irritated and restless at night, and keeps on rubbing or tugging the affected ear. The baby may also fail to respond to sounds due to the temporary hearing loss.
Middle Ear Infection Diagnosis
A doctor may use an otoscope to inspect the middle ear and look for some telltale signs that there’s an infection going on. A tympanometry test may also be conducted wherein a small instrument is used to measure the amount of air pressure in the ear, which may reveal whether or not the eardrum is perforated or ruptured. A simple hearing test may be performed as well in order to determine if temporary loss of hearing is present.
Medical Treatment for Middle Ear Infection
Usually, an infection of the middle ear resolves on its own in just a few days. A doctor may initially recommend the administration of painkillers and some home care, such as the placing of a warm washcloth over the infected ear, in order to avoid having antibiotics overused, as well as to reduce the potential side effects of their intake. Antibiotics are usually given if the problem fails to go away on its own after a few days of home care.