Otitis Media Symptoms & Causes

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In-Depth

What causes otitis media?

Middle ear infections are usually a result of a malfunction of the eustachian tube, a canal that links the middle ear with the throat area. The eustachian tube helps to equalize the pressure between the outer ear and the middle ear. When this tube is not working properly, it prevents normal drainage of fluid from the middle ear, causing a build up of fluid behind the eardrum. When this fluid cannot drain, it allows for the growth of bacteria and viruses in the ear that can lead to acute otitis media.

The eustachian tube may not work properly if:

  • The child has a cold or allergy, which can lead to swelling and congestion of the lining of the nose, throat, and eustachian tube (this swelling prevents the normal flow of fluids).
     
  • The eustachian tube has a malformation which causes a build up of fluid.

What are the different types of otitis media?

Different types include the following:

  • Acute Otitis Media (AOM). The middle ear infection occurs abruptly causing swelling and redness. Fluid and mucus become trapped inside the ear, causing your child to have a fever, ear pain, and hearing loss.
     
  • Otitis Media with Effusion (OME). Fluid (effusion) and mucus continue to accumulate in the middle ear after an initial infection subsides. Your child may experience a feeling of fullness in the ear and hearing loss.
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