Everything you need to know about otitis media
Very often, an acute middle ear infection starts with a cold. In most cases, viruses are responsible for it. This is because they enter your middle ear through the nasopharynx and your eustachian tube, also called the tuba. There, the mucous membrane of the tympanic cavity becomes inflamed. Automatically, this creates altered pressure conditions in your middle ear. This in turn affects your tympanic membrane in terms of its ability to vibrate. The transmission of sound is restricted accordingly.
In this guide, you will learn everything about otitis media, or the symptoms, treatment, as well as diagnosis, and you will get more information about the entire development and possible complications.
The symptoms of otitis media
Generally, a middle ear infection is always associated with severe ear pain. In addition, there may be other symptoms and secondary complaints, which can then be an indication of a middle ear infection:
- Feeling of pressure
- Fullness in the ear
- Redness and swelling
- Feeling of weakness
- Ear noise and tinnitus
- Conductive hearing loss
- Liquid behind the drumhead
- Ear leakage
- Tear or hole in drumskin
Diagnosis of middle ear infection
Have your ear, nose and throat doctor examine you, and he or she will use a magnifying glass and a light source to diagnose you. Most likely, you will also have a hearing test. This will help with the diagnosis. The doctor will then decide what treatment is needed for you. You may be diagnosed with an acute middle ear infection and then a conductive hearing loss. In addition, the otorhinolaryngologist will take a swab and do a bacteriological examination. This is preferred if you have an immune deficiency. The smear test may be helpful if there has been no improvement despite treatment with antibiotics. Through the bacteriological examination, the specific pathogen is determined by your doctor. Thus, a specific antibiotic can be used. Before your earache is treated, any allergies or diabetes must be taken into account. Therefore, you should describe all the details.
A swab for otitis media
The swab is taken directly from your middle ear mucosa using a sterile swab. Alternatively, a small spatula or brush is often used. With the help of the swab, the pathogens can then be determined.
The course of antibiotic therapy for otitis media
In middle ear infections, antibiotics are very often used. There are differences in the therapies when it comes to the pathogen. Usually, such antibiotic therapy lasts seven days. Your doctor will discuss the therapy with you in detail.
How is otitis media treated?
For the first day or two, an otolaryngologist will treat the symptoms of otitis media, but not the causes themselves. Most of the time, you will be given a decongestant first. This remedy is available either as drops or as a porridge. You will also be given painkillers, such as paracetamol.
Possible complications of otitis media
A wide variety of complications can occur with middle ear infection. In general, however, such adverse incidents are rare. However, your health can be severely affected.
Inflammation of the mastoid process is a typical complication. This process is located just on the temporal bone behind your auricle.
When this happens, the skin is usually swollen and red. If you suffer from a middle ear infection very frequently, it can also become chronic. As a result, your drumhead scars, and the ossicles also take damage from it. Your ossicles are only a few millimeters in size. In chronic middle ear infections, they can become fused or even completely destroyed. This may result in permanent hearing loss. Therefore, you should go to your ear, nose and throat doctor at the first sign of a middle ear infection.
The inflamed mastoid process
This cone-shaped bone behind your auricle can become inflamed if the middle ear infection heals poorly or not at all. Symptoms are much like those of otitis media, but they are more pronounced.
How does otitis media develop?
There are different ways that middle ear infections can occur.
The infection usually originates in the nasopharynx and is transmitted to the middle ear via the Eustachian tube.
Sometimes, pathogens also enter your middle ear directly from the outside via a defect in your drumhead. In rare cases, pathogens that originate in the bloodstream can also enter your middle ear.
There are two causes that are basically involved in the development of a middle ear infection:
- Previous or current infection
- permanent ventilation of the middle ear
When the so-called tube, that is, your eustachian tube, is not properly ventilated and there is a ventilation disorder, problems occur. Prior infections are usually bacterial or viral infections of your upper respiratory tract.
What pathogens cause middle ear infections?
The following viruses and bacteria may be responsible for middle ear infections:
Streptococcus pneumoniae:Initiates pneumonia.
Haemophilus influenzae:Inflammates the nasopharynx to a fever.
Beta-hemolytic streptococci:Causes pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis, especially in premature infants.
Very rarely, flu viruses are also responsible for middle ear infection. Sometimes flu actually ends in deafness.
The same is true for viruses that cause scarlet fever or measles. They cause inflammation and then destroy the cells of the mucous membrane.
In infants, middle ear infections are often accompanied by upper respiratory tract infections. These are usually caused by influenza or a cold. The course is usually similar to that of a common adult middle ear infection.
A middle ear infection in a child
Middle ear infections are very common in children up to the age of six. In the first year of life, about half of all infants go through a middle ear infection. In the third year of life, the figure is as high as 80%.
Therefore the complaints of the children should be taken absolutely seriously and the illness under no circumstances be carried off. Then the danger is great that it possibly comes to a permanent hearing loss in the child.
Notes and signs:
- pain in the abdomen
- The child is touching his ears
- Body temperature is rising
- fever above 39 °C
When a toddler or infant has very frequent middle ear infections, the adenoids are often enlarged. It may then be advisable to remove the tonsils. Surgery is recommended when the following situations occur:
- Within a year there are several middle ear infections.
- A fluid accumulates behind the drumhead.
- The child has trouble breathing through the nose.
The protection of babies and children
It has been proven that children often fall ill when their parents smoke. The same is true for children who have already had otitis media, because then the risk of recurrence increases. An infant who is breastfed by the mother is less likely to get middle earinfections.