Recurrent Otitis Media
RECURRENT EAR INFECTIONS
Recurrent otitis media, often referred to as recurrent ear infections, is a condition characterized by multiple episodes of middle ear infections within a relatively short period. Otitis media is an inflammation of the middle ear, typically caused by viral or bacterial infections. While most ear infections are acute and resolve with appropriate treatment, recurrent otitis media involves the recurrence of these infections.
In terms of frequency, recurrent otitis media may range from three infections in six months or four infections in a year. It's more common in young children due to the shorter and more horizontal structure of their Eustachian tubes, making them more prone to fluid accumulation and infections.
Symptoms of recurrent otitis media are similar to those of acute ear infections and may include:
Ear pain or discomfort
Hearing loss or muffled hearing
Fluid drainage from the ear
Irritability, especially in infants and young children
Treatment approaches can vary, and they often aim to alleviate symptoms, address infection, and prevent complications. The treatment plan may involve a combination of medical interventions and supportive care.
Tympanostomy tubes. If your child is experiencing fluid drainage from their ear and hearing loss, we may consider tympanostomy tubes. These are small plastic or metal tubes that we surgically place into an incision in the ear drum to help drain fluid from the middle ear and prevent infection. They are usually temporary, but we may recommend them for longer if your child is still experiencing symptoms.
Multi-step treatment. If your child has a hole in their eardrum and chronic drainage, we often recommend a multi-step treatment plan. We will first clean the ear through suctioning and analyze the infected fluid. Typically, antibiotic drops treat the infection, but oral or intravenous antibiotics may be necessary if the drops are not effective.
Surgical treatment. Once the infection is controlled, we will assess repairing the hole in the ear drum.Our team is experienced in these procedures and will help you make the best choice for your child. Repairing the hole in the eardrum often, but not always, improves hearing.
In complicated cases, a retraction, when the ear drum gets stuck in the middle ear, or a cholesteatoma, an abnormal skin growth in the middle ear, could develop. If untreated, these conditions could lead to serious complications.
If you suspect your child is experiencing recurrent ear infections, or if you're concerned about frequent ear infections in yourself, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional, such as an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. They can accurately diagnose the condition, identify potential underlying causes, and recommend appropriate treatment options.