Ear infections are a common childhood ailment; five out of every six children will have at least one ear infection before they turn three. For most of these children, their infection will resolve on its own or with the use of antibiotics. But for some, additional treatment in the form of ear tubes may be needed. Understanding the signs of when your child needs ear tubes can help prevent permanent damage.
What Is an Ear Infection?
An ear infection occurs when the middle ear becomes inflamed and fluid begins to build up behind the eardrum. Bacteria is the most common cause of this inflammation. Either the bacteria can travel from an upper respiratory infection or a sore throat to the ear, or a viral infection can create a hospitable environment for bacteria to grow.
When fluid builds up behind the eardrum, this can cause:
- Ear pain
- Loss of balance
- Hearing loss
Children will often tug or pull on their ear, cry more than usual and appear fussy.
Ear Infection Treatments
The first treatment option for an ear infection is known as the wait-and-see approach, as most symptoms improve on their own within a few days, and the infection should clear up in a week or two. Over-the-counter pain medication may be used to manage the ear pain and fever. Antibiotics will be prescribed if the ear infection does not clear up on its own.
Ear tubes may be recommended, depending on a number of factors.
Children who develop frequent ear infections and find no benefit from long-term, low-dose antibiotics used to prevent the infection from returning are candidates for ear tubes.
Children can have multiple infections at one time, making them more complicated to treat. This can cause more fluid to build up in the ear, which can lead to additional problems.
Hearing Loss or Speech Delay
A buildup of fluid in the ear can make hearing challenging. If an ear infection does not clear up after multiple months, your child is at risk of permanent hearing loss and speech delays.
How Do Ear Tubes Help?
Ear tubes help to regulate pressure in the middle ear, drain fluid from behind the eardrum and prevent future infections. These tiny tubes, made of metal or plastic, are placed in your child’s ear with a simple surgery.
The surgery is called a myringotomy. The doctor makes a small hole in each eardrum and removes the excess fluid. A tube is then placed in each hole. The procedure takes only 10 to 15 minutes.
To learn more about the treatment options available for ear infections or to schedule an appointment with a hearing professional, contact Indiana Hearing Specialists today.