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Otitis media: protecting your child’s long-term ear health

Otitis media, otherwise known as infection of the middle ear, is one of the most common ear infections seen in young children. Whilst acute otitis media will often clear up on its own, recurring ear infections and severe forms of otitis media could pose a threat to your child’s long-term hearing health and development. If this is the case, you may need to organise a consultation with a hearing specialist for further advice.

Why is otitis media more prominent in children?

Acute otitis media is most prevalent in children between the ages of six and eighteen months, and affects two thirds of children at least once by the time they are three years old. So why are babies and infants more prone to middle ear infections?  Acute otitis media occurs when the middle ear becomes inflamed and infected, often due to bacteria that reaches the middle ear from the nose and the throat via the Eustachian Tubes. This commonly occurs during or after a viral infection such as the flu or the common cold. In babies and young children, the Eustachian Tubes (the tubes that connect the nose, throat and ear) are smaller and narrower than in adults, making it easier for bacteria to spread and harder for trapped fluid to drain from the ear.

Signs and symptoms of acute otitis media

Increased irritability: Otitis media will often cause increased irritability in babies and infants due to the ear pain that results from increased pressure behind the eardrum (often a result of fluid build-up). You may also notice your child is pulling on their ear due to an earache. 

Temporary hearing loss: Middle ear infections can sometimes lead to temporary hearing loss caused by fluid build-up. This means your child may have more trouble hearing and responding to sounds than usual.

Fever: Acute otitis media will often be accompanied by a fever, particularly in younger children.

Loss of appetite: Your child may experience loss of appetite, lack of energy and, in severe cases, vomiting.

Fluid: fluid drainage from the ear.

Treatment of otitis media

In most cases, particularly with infants, acute otitis media will clear up on its own. However, depending on your child’s age and the severity of their infection, your doctor may recommend antibiotics, especially if your child is under six months old. In extreme cases, repeated ear infections can lead to a more severe form of otitis media – otitis media with effusion (otherwise known as glue ear). This is when the fluid behind the eardrum becomes trapped and gets thicker. If this problem persists, it can begin to impact your child’s hearing, which can in turn affect their learning, behaviour and speech. If this is the case, you will need to organise a consultation and hearing test with your doctor or audiologist.

Hearing tests for children at The Art of Hearing

If you suspect your child is suffering from hearing problems as the result of an infection or otherwise, you may need to organise a children’s hearing test and consultation with your local audiologist. At The Art of Hearing clinics in Perth, we offer hearing tests for children to help you identify or rule out further hearing problems. To book a hearing test for children with our experienced audiologists, or to find out more about our unique hearing solutions, visit our website today and organise a hearing consultation.

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