Middle ear infection (otitis media) is an inflammation of the middle ear that is made up of the three different inflammatory diseases such as:
1. Acute otitis media (AOM)
Acute otitis media (AOM) is the rapid manifestation of ear pain caused by an infection. It is more common in males, and it is recorded to affect 11% of the entire world population yearly. 50% of cases are children below 5years of age.
Acute otitis media symptoms
Here are signs and symptoms of acute otitis media:
- Children tend to pull the infected ear due to pain
- Increase crying
- Decrease appetite
- Problems falling asleep
- High body temperature (fever)
- Bulging/lack of tympanic membrane movements
- Reduced hearing
- Tender skin overlying the ears
Acute otitis media lead to chronic suppurative otitis media in about 4.5% of cases.
2. Otitis media with effusion (OME)
Otitis media with effusion (OME) is the collection of non-infectious fluid (non-purulent effusion) in the middle ear space for a minimum period of 3 months. It mostly occurs after the onset of acute otitis media. The fluid in the affected ear is sticky, thick with no sign of infection, and it can log in the ear for weeks.
OME is usually asymptomatic. The only complaint is a feeling of fullness in the ear.
3. Chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM)
Chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM) is the continuous leakage of discharge from the ear through a perforated tympanic membrane for a minimum of 6 weeks and more prolonged than three months. Chronic suppurative otitis media is usually a complication of acute otitis media.
Cause of middle ear infection (otitis media)
The causes and predisposing factors of otitis media include:
- Viral upper respiratory tract infections that spread to the ears
- Bacteria infections such as staphylococcus aureus, streptococcus pneumoniae, and Haemophilus influenza).
- Feeding an infant while lying down or short duration of breastfeeding predisposes that child to early onset otitis media with effusion.
- Smoke irritation
- Use of pacifiers
- Smoke exposure
- Crowded environments increase the risk of chronic suppurative otitis media
- Down syndrome
- Cleft palate and lip
- Strep throat
- Sore throat
- Parental smoking can increase a child’s likelihood of otitis media.
Diagnosis of middle ear infection:
Diagnosis is carried out with the following:
- Pneumatic otoscope: is the standard tool for otitis media diagnosis.
- Tympanometry: is used to test the condition of the middle ear and mobility of the eardrum.
- Reflectometry: uses an acoustic otoscope to measure sound reflected from the tympanic membrane. Reflective sound is loud in otitis media with effusion (OME).
- Audiometry: Use to measures hearing acuity for variations in sound intensity, pitch, and tonal purity.
- Temporal bone CT and MRI
What happens if a middle ear infection goes untreated?
Ear infections may lead to further severe complications, including:
- Hearing loss
- Subperiosteal abscess formation
- Mastoid effusion
Treatment of middle ear infection (otitis media) include:
- Pain meds such as paracetamol, antipyrine and benzocaine eardrops, opioids and ibuprofen
- Antibiotics such as amoxicillin
- Tympanostomy tubes: is a small tube inserted into the eardrum that keeps the ear dry and airy in order to prevent the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear.
- Ear cleaning (aural toileting)
- Ear drops
- Applying a warm washcloth to the outside of the ear can be helpful in easing the pain
- Antihistamines medication
Prevention of middle ear infection (otitis media):
- Vaccination (influenza and pneumococcus)
- Wash hands and your child’s toys often to reduce the odds of catching a cold or different respiratory infection.
- It would help if you breastfed your newborns instead of bottle feeding them. Breast milk reduces the incidence of ear infections.
- Avoid smoking in the same house when your child present. Make sure your home and car are smokefree.
If you suspect otitis media, do not waste time on self-medicate since the disease can cause severe complications, see your doctor for proper diagnosis.