About Otitis Media
Otitis media refers to inflammatory diseases of the middle ear, more commonly referred to as ear infections. A frequent cause of infant and childhood earaches and pain, otitis media can also affect adults.
The infection in the middle ear can happen when the person has a cold, flu or other respiratory infection. Because the middle ear is connected to the upper respiratory tract through the Eustachian tube, germs found in the nose or sinuses can reach the middle ear through the Eustachian tube.
In infants and small children, the Eustachian tube may be dysfunctional, a disorder in which tissue may be too soft and not stay open properly. Allergies, sinusitis, viruses such as colds and flu, and enlarged adenoids can restrict needed airflow into the middle ear, leading to an ear infection.
Ear infections are important to treat, usually requiring antibiotics. If untreated, otitis media can lead to mastoiditis (an inflammation of the bony structure adjacent to the ear), meningitis, a perforated eardrum, hearing loss or other disorders. Recurrent ear infections may need surgical treatment, particularly important for children during their formative years in speech development.
For recurrent ear infections or when fluid builds up behind the eardrum, small ear tubes are inserted into a small surgical opening in the eardrum by an otolaryngologist. This allows fluid to drain properly and air to flow into the middle ear, as well as the equalization of pressure in the ear. Untreated, tympanic membrane perforation may occur.
Ear tube surgery for children is performed under general anesthesia on an outpatient basis. Follow-up appointments with your National Sinus Institute ear, nose and throat specialist are important, so that we can ensure that the tubes are working to alleviate the fluid buildup and allow airflow.