Ear Infections (Otitis Media, Chronic)
What is an ear infection?
Otitis media, or an ear infection, usually occurs when viruses and/or bacteria get inside the ear and cause an infection. It is often the result of another illness, such as a cold. If your child gets sick, the illness might affect his or her ears.
When the ears get infected, the Eustachian tubes become inflamed and swollen, and the adenoids may also become infected. The Eustachian tubes are inside the ear. They keep air pressure stable in the ear. These tubes also help supply the ears with fresh air. The adenoids are located near the Eustachian tubes. Adenoids are clumps of cells that fight infections.
Swollen and inflamed Eustachian tubes often become clogged with fluid and mucus from a cold. If the fluids plug the openings of the Eustachian tubes, air and fluid are trapped inside the ear. These tubes are smaller and straighter in children than they are in adults. This makes it harder for fluid to drain out of the ear and is one reason that children get more ear infections than adults.
What are the symptoms of an ear infection?
Ear infections cause pain, hearing loss, and in young children can affect language development and balance.
When does my child need tubes?
If your child suffers from chronic or recurrent ear infections, tubes may be necessary. Chronic or recurrent ear infections may be diagnosed if your child suffers from any of the following:
- 5 or more ear infections in one year
- Persistent fluid in the middle ear for three months or more
- Acute infection not treatable after several antibiotics
- Chronic pain despite medication
What happens when tubes are placed?
Chronic or recurrent ear infections are treated by a minor 5-minute outpatient procedure called a myringotomy, usually accompanied by tube placement. A myringotomy is a procedure where a small hole is created in the ear drum to help drain fluids. Tubes are then placed to prevent further fluid back-up and promote healthy draining, which helps relieve pain, prevent further ear infections and improves hearing.
What is the typical recovery time for tubes?
Most children generally go home within 1 to 2 hours after surgery. You will get instructions on how to care for your child's tubes. He or she may need to use ear drops and may also need to wear ear plugs when swimming.
How long do tubes typically last?
Tubes generally fall out on their own within 6 months to a year, though some may fall out sooner or last longer.
Find Out More or Make an Appointment
To learn more or make an appointment at Gwinnett ENT, contact 678-312-7390 or schedule online.