Ear infections are the most common childhood infection requiring antibiotics, and Dr. Michael Burnett, one of New York’s top Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctors, sees many patients in his practice who developed inflammation or infection of the middle ear. A middle ear infection refers to an infection that affects the ear drums, and frequently begins with another type of respiratory infection, like a cold or a sore throat, that is the result of a virus or a bacteria that infects those areas before spreading to the middle ear. Otitis media is the medical term for this infection, and it refers to inflammation of the middle ear, but typically this term is also used to denote middle ear infections and inflammation.
Ear Infection, or Otitis Media
Acute otitis media will develop rapidly, but it rarely lasts for longer than a few days. Patients with otitis media will have pain and sometimes experience fever. Dr. Michael Burnett may examine your ear and find signs of fluid that are accumulating in the middle ear, and your eardrum may appear to bulge when it is examined with an otoscope. Sometimes, otitis media can result in a bulging eardrum or a perforation of the ear drum, which results in drainage of pus from the middle ear.
Patients who visit Dr. Michael Burnett with chronic otitis media may have developed inflammation in the middle ear that has persisted for at least a month. Chronic otitis media is the result of fluid buildup behind the ear drum, or tympanic membrane, during an episode of acute otitis media. The pressure from chronic otitis media can result in continuing damage to the eardrum and to the middle ear. Patients who have chronic otitis media may experience a small amount of hearing loss, and they may have had pressure in the ear, or popping, for an extended period of time.
Ear Infection in Children
About 75% of American children will experience otitis media at least one time before they reach the age of three years old. Children may complain of pain in the ear, but sometimes younger children may simply appear to be irritable and fussy, and may be having difficulties feeding or sleeping. Many times, fever occurs, and the symptoms of an ear infection are frequently seen in children who have signs of other upper respiratory infections, including runny nose or cough. Ear infections aren’t contagious, although the colds or other infections that accompany the ear infection may be contagious.
Young children get ear infections frequently because the canal that runs between the middle ear and the back of the nose and throat, known as the Eustachian tube, is shorter in young children, which allows pathogenic bacteria and viruses to easily enter the middle ear and cause an infection. Treatment depends upon the age of the child, and the certainty of the diagnosis. Some children may continue to have recurrent episodes of otitis media, and may need to have a tube placed to drain fluid from the middle ear.
If you or your child is suffering from recurrent or persistent symptoms of otitis media, call us at 212-867-4813 or email us today to make an appointment for an evaluation with Dr. Michael Burnett, New York’s top ENT doctor.