Ear infections can be a painful and frustrating experience for many, especially in younger children. The truth is, no parent enjoys seeing their child in distress, yet unfortunately, ear infections are incredibly common. Ranking among the top reasons parents bring their children to the doctor, every 5 out of 6 children have at least one ear infection by their third birthday. Though they are common, this does not make their symptoms any less painful or worrying for children or their dutiful parents. Sudden hearing loss can be a frightening symptom when suffering from an ear infection, especially for our youngest patients.
Though they are incredibly common in children, ear infections can happen to anyone regardless of age. Also known as Acute Otitis Media, ear infections are an inflammation of the middle ear, usually due to bacteria either from a previous condition like a sore throat, common cold, or upper respiratory infection that makes its way into the ear, or bacteria that is introduced in another way by a cleaning gone wrong or a foreign object. They may result in ear pain, inflammation, and a buildup of fluid during or after the initial infection, a condition known as Otitis Media with Effusion. Fortunately, neither condition is entirely serious. They are usually treated with antibiotics or ear drops and begin to clear up within two to three days.
Fortunately, signs of an ear infection are usually quite easy to discern. A sharp or continuous and dull earache, a sharp pain with immediate drainage from the ear canal, muffled hearing or ear fullness, and ear drainage are all telltale signs of an ear infection. A slight fever (above 100.4 degrees) may present itself but is generally more likely in children.
Determining whether your child has an ear infection can be more difficult, especially at younger ages before they have learned to talk. “Mommy, my ear hurts!” is a helpful sign, but what other symptoms can help determine whether your child has an ear infection?
If your child presents any of these signs, it is time to call a pediatrician to get a conclusive diagnosis.
Along with other symptoms, hearing loss can occur during an ear infection due to the build-up of fluid inside an air-filled space behind the eardrum. This fluid build-up can reduce the mobility of the eardrum and bones located within the middle ear, leading to hearing complications. Fortunately, this hearing loss is usually temporary and will clear up once the infection has. However, though this hearing loss is temporary, treating the infection is critical during times of adolescence where hearing is vital to child development. If hearing loss persists, it is important that you get you or your child’s hearing evaluated immediately by a hearing health professional.