The middle ear is a small pocket of air found behind the eardrum. Middle ear infections occur when germs get into the middle ear; your body then responds by filling the middle ear with germ-fighting fluid (pus). Normally, this fluid would drain through the tube that connects the middle ear to the throat (the eustachian tube). However, if the eustachian tube is too small or otherwise obstructed, the fluid might fail to drain properly. When the fluid builds up, it can cause significant discomfort and pain. This is called an ear infection (or otitis media).
Because of their smaller eustachian tubes, most children will experience at least one middle ear infection between the ages of six month and five years.
Symptoms of an ear infection may include:
Some children might be more prone to developing ear infections due to lifestyle and environmental factors. Factors that increase the likelihood of developing ear infections include exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke, taking a bottle to bed, or attending a group childcare.
If your child experiences three or more ear infections in a calendar year, or if she shows signs of speech delay or hearing loss, she may be a candidate to receive ear tubes.
Ear tube surgery is a very common procedure at Ogden Clinic (often lasting less than ten minutes) in which pressure equalization tubes are inserted into the eardrum to help ventilate and equalize the pressure in the middle ear. These pressure equalization tubes help to prevent future buildup of fluid and infections of the middle ear. They will also help normalize hearing. Your child will be able to return home shortly after the procedure. Depending on the type of ear tube used, it will remain in place for six to 18 months or longer.