To understand earaches you must first know about the Eustachian tube, a narrow cannal connecting the inside of the ear to the back of the throat. The tube drains the ear, both air and fluid and equalizes the air pressure in the ear preventing fluid in the middle ear from building up. In a healthy ear, the fluid drains down the tube, assisted by tiny hair cells, and is swallowed. This is the tube you use when you try to clear your ears on an airplane.
Normally, the tube is collapsed most of the time in order to protect the middle ear from the many germs residing in the nose and mouth.. When the tube becomes partially blocked, fluid accumulates in the middle ear, trapping bacteria already present, which then multiply. Additionally, as the air in the middle ear space is released, a vacuum is formed that absorbs more bacteria from the nose and mouth into the ear. This gives the feeling of a need to “pop” your ears.
The most common complaint treated by ear doctors, especially in New Jersey and New York, is earache and it is also the most common cause of hearing loss in children. Also known as otitis media, an ear infection is caused by an infection and inflammation of the middle ear.
In today’s antibiotic world mostly all cases of earache and otitis media in children, and adults, are successfully treated but left untreated, can be a serious disorder lead to hearing loss, which may also lead to developmental issues with a child such as impaired or delayed speech and can potentially spread to close structure such as the sinus of ear called the mastoid.
Otitis media is caused by blockage of the eustachian tube during an upper respiratory illness, allergies, or a cold. As the body fights the infection, infected mucus or pus builds up behind the eardrums. When this occurs, swelling, redness, and pain and a loss of hearing occurs. If the pressure of the fluid is strong enough the eardrum may “pop” draining the pus down the ear canal where you can now see it as it drips out. More often, however, the fluid will remain in the ear.
Ear ache symptoms vary from pulling or scratching his or her ears, fever, to vomiting, irritability. In adults, the symptoms are often described as a sense of pressure in the ears, dizziness, hearing loss, fever, ear drainage, pain, clogged ears.
Most frequently, antibiotics are the medication of choice for treatment. In those cases where antibiotics do not work or there is residual fluid from the infection, surgery (ear tube placement) is required in which a surgeon will place ventilation tubes in the ear until the patient recovers from the ear infection.