Otitis Media (Infection of the Middle Ear Space)
What is otitis media?
Otitis media is essentially an infection of the middle ear space. This condition occurs very frequently in children and less commonly in adults. The otitis media typically results from Eustachian tube dysfunction, which leads to blockage of the natural drainage pathway from the ear to the back of the nasal airway. Eustachian tube dysfunction is very common in children, and is likely worsened by viral infections such as the common cold and possibly by nasal allergies. The otitis media typically occurs in phases. The initial inflammatory infection is called acute otitis media, and can cause pain and hearing loss. Once the acute inflammation has subsided, the middle ear fluid may drain in a short time, or the fluid may be retained, leading to otitis media with effusion (serous otitis media). This fluid collection can remain for several months in some cases, but does not typically cause pain. This condition can cause significant conductive hearing loss.
How is otitis media treated?
Most cases of acute otitis media resolve without antibiotic treatment, but some require antibiotic treatment and analgesics. Rare cases can progress to more serious infections of the mastoid or brain. Serous otitis media can be observed for some time, but surgical drainage may be considered if there is a prolonged duration of hearing loss. Ventilation tubes (pressure equalization tubes) can be placed for cases of multiply recurrent acute otitis media or long duration of serous otitis media with hearing