Otitis Media

Table of Contents

Otitis media occurs when the middle ear – the cavity behind the eardrum, becomes infected. This infection is very common, especially in children. Based on research, 80-90 percent of people with otitis media are children under 6 years of age. However, adults can still run the risk of developing otitis media. 

You do not have to consult a doctor right away if you are dealing with otitis media. Most children will experience otitis media before the age of 3. Research also claims that otitis media occurs more in men than women.

Generally, otitis media occurs due to a cold, sore throat, or allergies that cause fluid buildup in the middle ear. Symptoms include redness, ear pain, and thick yellow discharge from the ear.

There are three types of otitis media:

  • Acute otitis media. This is the most common type of otitis media that does not have consequences for other health problems. Symptoms of acute otitis media generally occur suddenly and last for a certain time.
  • Otitis media with effusion. Effusion is a buildup of fluid. If the condition of acute otitis media does not improve, the patient runs the risk of developing otitis media with an effusion due to the fluid buildup that remains behind the eardrum. If there is excessive fluid buildup and the patient’s ears feel full – it could lead to hearing loss.
  • Chronic otitis media. This type of otitis media occurs when the buildup of fluid behind the eardrum continues to occur repeatedly or occurs over a long period of time. In chronic otitis media, your body will find it increasingly difficult to fight off the infection and the hearing loss will worsen.

Causes of Otitis Media

The middle ear is the normally air-filled space behind the eardrum. The lining of this space creates a fluid to keep the tissues moist. In children, the eustachian tubes are short, soft, and more horizontal – which is why they are more likely to get clogged.

The eustachian tubes are a pair of narrow tubes that run from each middle ear to high in the back of the throat, behind the nasal passages.

Swollen eustachian tubes can become blocked, causing fluids to build up in the middle ear. Factors may include sore throat, flu or allergies. The fluid buildup can become infected and cause the symptoms of an ear infection.

When to See a Doctor for Otitis Media?

In general, otitis media can be treated without having to consult a doctor. However, if the symptoms do not improve within 2-3 days, you may consult an ENT specialist doctor (ear, nose, throat specialist).

First, your eardrum will be examined. Otitis media can usually be indicated through redness or swelling of the eardrums.

People with otitis media should consult a doctor when they experience: 

  • Extremely high fever.
  • Ear pain that does not improve within 3 days.
  • Swelling around the ear.
  • Thick yellow discharge from the ear.
  • Hearing loss
  • Other symptoms such as getting sick, having acute and prolonged sore throat
  • Dizziness
  • Long-term disease conditions, such as diabetes, kidneys, or heart.
  • Weak immune system due to chemotherapy.

If the patient runs the risk of having medical complications, it is advised for the doctor to confirm the symptoms of otitis media. 

Symptoms of Otitis Media

In adults, the symptoms of otitis media or ear infection may include:

  • Nausea.
  • Hearing disorders.
  • Ears feeling full and heavy.
  • Thick yellow ear discharge 
  • Ear pain, stabbing-like sensation, constant numbness.

Meanwhile, in children, the symptoms of otitis media that generally appear are:

  • Ear pain.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Losing balance.
  • Tugging at the ear.
  • Emotional, feeling anxious
  • Crying while lying down at night.
  • Poor sleep – often fussy and crying.
  • Thick yellow discharge from the ear.

In people with acute otitis media, there may be additional symptoms such as:

  • Coughing.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Vertigo.

 Treatment for Otitis Media

Otitis media or ear infections can be treated without consulting a doctor. Several treatments that can be undertaken on your own include: 

  • Take painkillers or pain relievers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Children under the age of 16 are not allowed to take aspirin (headache medicine).
  • Place a warm or cold flannel on the ear.
  • Remove any blockage in the ear, (usually thick yellow discharge) by wiping your ear with clean cotton balls.

To treat otitis media, keep in mind that there are a number of things to avoid, such as:

  • Clean earwax using cotton buds or your fingers.
  • Prevent water and shampoo from getting into the ear.

If the symptoms do not go away, the doctor may prescribe you with antibiotics.  

Treatment Cost for Otitis Media

The cost for otitis media treatment varies. In general, otitis media does not cost a lot as it can resolve on its own. However, in severe cases, acute ear infection will require treatment from a specialist doctor. 

For more information regarding the estimated costs of otitis media treatment, contact Smarter Health.

Prevention of Otitis Media

Infection in the middle ear cannot always be prevented as it may occur due to colds and flu. However, there are several precautions you can take to minimise the potential for infection when you have the flu:

  • Get routine vaccinations
  • Avoid smoky environments 
  • Avoid getting furry dolls or toys for your children

Moreover, outer ear infections can also be avoided by:

  • Avoid sticking cotton buds or fingers into your ears.
  • Using ear plugs or headband to cover your ears when swimming.
  • Prevent getting water and shampoo into your ear while bathing.
  • Treating diseases that may cause ear infections, such as sinusitis, allergies, and so on.

Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Otitis Media

Otitis media can affect people of all ages. Even though this ear condition can resolve on its own, make sure you consult an ENT specialist if the condition worsens. 

If the doctor has confirmed that the infection is relatively acute, you will be prescribed with antibiotics. 

There are some simple home remedies to treat otitis media, such as: 

  • Keep your ears clean
  • Get routine immunization
  • Avoid cigarette smoke and pollution that can affect the throat.
  • Prevent your child from chewing on dirty objects

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