The Eustachian tube of a child is shorter, more horizontal, and straighter than those of adults. The horizontal nature makes it more difficult for a child to drain an ear infection quicker than an adult. A child's tube is also floppier, with a smaller opening that easily clogs.
Inflammation of the tissue inside the middle ear and accumulation of pus is known as "otitis media." Otitis media occurs when a cold, allergy or upper respiratory infection, causes accumulation of pus and mucus behind the eardrum, blocking the Eustachian tube. Although otitis media is most common in young children, it occasionally affects adults and occurs most commonly during the winter and early spring.
The pus or fluid can remain in the ear for weeks to months. If not treated, the fluid can remain, leading to scarring and chronic thickening of the ear membranes. This could lead to serious consequences such as temporary or permanent hearing loss.
The mainstay of treatment is antibiotics if it is believed to be a bacterial infection. In some cases, surgery may be the only effective treatment for chronic ear infections. Surgeyr, or myringotomy with or without tube placement is one of the most common procedures performed today in the hands of an ENT doctor. This can be done with a a laser or just topical anesthesia and tiny ear instruments.
During the procedure, a small incision is made in the ear drum, the fluid is suctioned out, and a tube is placed. In young children, this is usually done under a light, general anesthesia; older patients may have the procedure performed under local anesthesia. Immediately after the procedure the patient should hear much better. Fluid may drain for a few days after the procedure and then will stop. Rarely is there any persistent bleeding or dizziness. After one week, and the patient's hearing may be retested.
If the patient is age six or younger, it is recommended that tubes remain in place for up to two years. Most tubes will fall out on their own. If not, your ENT Doctor will decide when the tubes should be removed.Otitis media is generally not serious if it is promptly and properly treated. With the help of your physician, you and/or your child can feel and hear better very soon.