Ep. 14: Important Middle Ear Infection Information that Parents Need to Know
Today’s episode will be a chat about ear infections and will specifically discuss middle ear infections which most people consider to be THE ear infection.
Additional information can be found on my previous posts about ear infection facts, ways to prevent them, common ear infection myths and their severe complications. You might also want to check out a post by a pediatrician who shares the difficult process of diagnosing ear infections.
But my purpose today is to give a big old overview of these ear infections. Like Middle ear infections 101.
This is such a huge topic; therefore, I am doing a lot of talking with more details in the episode. Listen in and learn!
At the end of this post, I will share my Pro-Tips. If you don’t remember much else, remember these.
Ear infections are extremely common; however, many people do not understand that all ear infections are not the same. Depending on where the infection is located, different symptoms and treatments are needed.
Be sure to always ask your physician what type of infections you have or which part of the ear infected. This will help you as you interact with future physicians because it is difficult for me to understand past treatments when we are not talking about the same type of infection!
First, there are 3 parts of the ear.
- outer ear….aka swimmers ear
- inner ear…near the brain, often with severe dizziness or the most dreaded permanent hearing loss.
- middle ear is …well located between the outer ear (ear canal) and inner ear (next to brain)
Classic ear infection cycle:
- runny nose
- pulling on ears
- Boom, gone.
But…clearly, this is not always the case.
Many things go into determining when a middle ear infection is more severe or needs more aggressive care. Which is why, when you say your friend’s child did XYZ. or when you were a child, ABC happened…none of this deals with the exact situation that is happening with the patient right now.
Useful Middle ear infection information
- Nose symptoms almost always are the cause of the middle ear infection
- Just because nasal mucus is green does not mean there is a bacterial infection (check out my mucus blog post)
- Young kids under age 6 can have 6-8 viral infections a year (common colds are common!)
- From September to April, kids can have viral infections EVERY month!
- Middle ear infections can be recurrent or chronic. They are different.
- Most middle ear infections are viral and many (and I do mean MANY) do not need antibiotics
- The number of antibiotics prescribed does not always tell me the severity of the problem. (Often tells me how often you went to a physician and often requested antibiotics)
- Kids who may be treated more aggressively with fewer infections include
- newborns less than 6 weeks old
- kids who have seizures with fevers
- kids who have several ruptured eardrums
Middle ear infection complications
- Common mild or temporary complications
- Muffled hearing with ear fluid
- Speech and balance issues which readily reverse
- Moderate complications
- Significant speech delay requiring speech therapy
- Sensory issues that may need therapy
- Learning issues
- Severe complications
- Chronic hole in the eardrum which needs surgery
- Scarring on the eardrum or hearing bones that needs surgery
- Skin build up behind the eardrum, (called a cholesteatoma) needing surgery
- Emergency complications, usually during acute infections
- Brain Abscess
- Mastoiditis…trapped infection in the bone behind the ear.
Dr. Burton’s Pro-Tips (the middle ear infection take-home messages you need):
Get a follow-up visit with your pediatrician to make sure the ear fluid is completely gone
If you or your child is diagnosed with an ear infection, always, always ask where! Seriously. Which part of the ear?
NEVER ask your physician to prescribe antibiotics. They will if they think it is needed.
Aggressive treatment of nasal symptoms can reduce middle ear infections and their severity
Acute infections may lead to severe emergency complications
Chronic problems may lead to long-term changes that require more surgery. Ear tubes are the most common childhood surgery and may be recommended when ear infections cannot be resolved. Be sure to check out my podcast about what you should (and should not) expect from ear tubes!
I give mini-speeches about ear infections all day long in my office. It is much easier to do because I can point to my posters on my walls and better connect the dots when I discuss different parts of the ear and the nose and brain relationship.
I might have to add to my list of things to do…make some youtube videos where I can point to areas as I describe what is going on. Hmmm. I am currently struggling to not sound super awkward on these podcasts, so seeing me on video? Gotta mull that over for a bit more.
As always, much love for supporting my work. I will be adding many more posts to highlight parenting and healthcare tips, so be sure to consider subscribing to my podcast or to my blog to avoid missing a post!