Also known as a middle ear infection, otitis media occurs when there is inflammation in the middle ear and often when there is impaired middle ear ventilation. Otitis media tends to be more commonly experienced by children because of the angle of their eustachian tube, but it can also affect adults of all ages.
There are two main types of middle ear infections including acute otitis media (AOM) and otitis media with effusion (OME). Otitis media can also occur in children.
Otitis media often affects babies and children between the ages of six months and six years. Symptoms for babies include restless sleep and increased crying, fever, and rubbing of the affected ear. For young children, typical signs of otitis media may not be obvious.
As a result of inflammation within the ear, many people with otitis media experience some form of temporary hearing loss. Much like the condition itself, the degree of hearing loss experienced will vary from case to case. If otitis media occurs frequently or if the infection spreads to the delicate structures of the inner ear, permanent hearing damage may occur.
Other symptoms of otitis media may include pain within the ear, a high temperature, pressure within the ear, a lack of energy, discharge from the ears and congestion.
Otitis media commonly occurs when the eustachian tube, a canal that connects the nose and throat to the middle ear, becomes swollen and inflamed, affecting the ventilation of the middle ear. This provides the perfect environment for an infection to develop, leading to symptoms that commonly accompanies otitis media. The chances of experiencing otitis media increase with some common conditions, including colds and flus, allergies, sinus infections, and enlarged or infected adenoids.
As otitis media typically occurs in tandem with other illnesses, such as colds and flus, the best preventative measure for adults is to practice good hygiene. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly, especially at the height of cold and flu season.
If otitis media is not treated properly, a bacterial infection can develop. While there is fluid in the middle ear, temporary hearing loss may also occur. Very rarely, when untreated, otitis media can lead to permanent hearing loss. Don't hesitate to ask for help.