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Did You Know? Different Types of Ear Infections

Did you know that there are dif­fer­ent types of ear infec­tions? Each have their own symp­toms and treat­ments. Take a look below to explore the inner ear.

Acute Oti­tis Media

Acute Oti­tis Media (AOM) is what is com­mon­ly called an ear infec­tion. It is the col­lec­tion of flu­id behind the eardrum that has become infect­ed by bac­te­ria. Com­mon symp­toms include: pain, fever, fussi­ness, and hear­ing loss. Severe infec­tions can cause rup­ture of the eardrum result­ing in drainage from the ear canal. Infec­tions often respond well to oral antibi­otics. Patients who have had mul­ti­ple episodes of AOM are often can­di­dates for ear tube place­ment. This pro­ce­dure dras­ti­cal­ly reduces the sever­i­ty and fre­quen­cy of infec­tions. Infec­tions can still occur after place­ment of ear tubes, but are much less painful, and can be eas­i­ly treat­ed with place­ment of antibi­ot­ic ear drops direct­ly into the ear canal.

Serous Oti­tis Media

Serous Oti­tis Media (SOM) is more com­mon­ly known as ear flu­id.” This con­di­tion is often a result of AOM. After an infec­tion is treat­ed, non-infect­ed flu­id can per­sist behind the eardrum. Often, there is hear­ing loss as a result of the flu­id. Patients may feel a pres­sure in the ear, but usu­al­ly no pain. Flu­id that per­sists for longer than 3 months is often treat­ed with place­ment of ear tubes. It is impor­tant to iden­ti­fy this con­di­tion in chil­dren as hear­ing loss can some­times result in speech delay.

Chron­ic Oti­tis Media

Chron­ic Oti­tis Media is a con­di­tion that more com­mon­ly affects adults. It is the result of a per­sis­tent low-grade infec­tion behind the eardrum as well as the bone behind the ear known as the mas­toid. This con­di­tion can present as chron­ic drainage from the ear or as a hole in the eardrum with fre­quent episodes of drainage. This con­di­tion is often the result of poor Eustachi­an tube func­tion. Tem­po­rary treat­ment often involves oral antibi­otics or top­i­cal antibi­otics in the form of eardrops; how­ev­er, defin­i­tive treat­ment often involves surgery to remove the infec­tion and repair the eardrum known as tympanomastoidectomy.

Eustachi­an Tube Dys­func­tion (ETD)

The Eustachi­an Tube is a struc­ture that con­nects the small space behind our eardrum (called the mid­dle ear space) to the back of our nose. Neg­a­tive pres­sure, or a vac­u­um, is con­stant­ly form­ing in the mid­dle ear space. Every time we chew, move our jaw, or swal­low, the Eustachi­an tube should open allow­ing air to enter the mid­dle ear space and equal­ize this pres­sure. If this tube does not func­tion prop­er­ly, pres­sure, and some­times flu­id, can build behind the eardrum. This can result in ear pain, pres­sure, full­ness, or even infec­tion. Infants and chil­dren are more prone to ear flu­id and infec­tions, because the Eustachi­an tube does not prop­er­ly devel­op until after age 4. In adults, ETD may be a result of improp­er devel­op­ment, or from an upper res­pi­ra­to­ry tract infec­tion. Non-sur­gi­cal treat­ment for ETD often involves the use of a pre­scrip­tion nasal spray and the dai­ly use of a tech­nique known as valsalva.

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