New York Pediatric ENT Dr. Edward Shin Offers a Full range of Treatments for Eustachian Tube & Middle Ear Infections.

Middle Ear Infection Treatment
TEL:646.943.7985310 14Th STREET, SIXTH FLOOR NEW YORK, NEW YORK, 10003FAX:212.979.4315

Middle Ear Infections & Treatment

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, ear infections are the number one reason that children go to the doctor.  In fact, 25% of all antibiotic prescriptions in the United States are written to treat ear infections.  But antibiotics can only treat certain ear infections, and for many children, pain and fluid build-up in the middle ear can become a chronic problem.  If untreated, chronic middle ear infections can lead to serious complications for children, including temporary or permanent hearing loss.  Fortunately, there are excellent treatment options that can both lower the incidence and reduce the duration of ear infections for many children. 

What is a middle ear infection?

In order to understand middle ear infection, known as acute otitis media, you need to know a little about the anatomy of the ear.   The Eustachian tube is a narrow channel that connects the inside of the ear to the back of the throat.  In a healthy ear, fluid drains from the middle ear through the Eustachian tube and is swallowed.  Proper drainage in the middle ear prevents fluid from building up, which can foster infection and damage delicate eardrums.  When the Eustachian tube becomes inflamed and partially blocked, fluid accumulates in the middle ear, trapping bacteria and causing a middle ear infection. 

Why do children get so many ear infections?

Children’s Eustachian tubes are shorter, more horizontal and straighter than Eustachian tubes in adults.  Additionally, Eustachian tubes in children have smaller openings that clog more easily.  When Eustachian tubes become blocked, fluid can build up in the middle ear, and infection can occur.

Symptoms of middle ear infection may include:

  • Ear pain that comes and goes
  • Pulling at the ear
  • Crying and irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fever
  • Drainage of fluid
  • Hearing loss (usually temporary)
  • Delayed development in speech and language skills
  • Delayed development in gross motor skills
  • Balance problems

How is middle ear infection diagnosed?

Dr. Shin will do a thorough physical evaluation and medical history, which will include looking in the ear with a special instrument called an otoscope.  Other tests can include tympanometry, an examination that can measure pressure inside the ear to determine if fluid is present.

How are middle ear infections treated?

Treatment will depend on many things, including the cause for fluid build-up, the type of infection present, and the frequency, duration, and severity of your child’s ear infections.  In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat certain middle ear infections. But, up to 50% of middle ear infections are viral infections that won’t respond to antibiotics. Additionally, over-prescription of antibiotics can contribute to antibiotic resistance.  For some children who have chronic middle ear infections, surgery can help alleviate fluid build-up, reduce the number of ear infections and courses of antibiotics needed, and provide lasting relief.  Dr. Shin will thoroughly discuss all the treatment options with you.

How can surgery treat recurrent middle ear infections in children?

A short surgical procedure known as myringotomy has been shown to be very effective in treating children with recurrent middle ear infections and persistent middle ear effusions.  During the procedure, a tiny incision is made in the eardrum and a small tube is placed through the hole to allow continuous drainage of fluid from the middle ear.  The procedure is usually done in the hospital with the patient under general anesthesia.  Patients are typically discharged shortly after the procedure. 

How long do the tubes stay in the ear?

Most tubes fall out on their own within 6 months to 2 years after the procedure, depending on the size and type of tube used.  Once the tubes fall out, the hole in the eardrum typically closes up on its own. In rare cases, a second procedure is needed to remove tubes or patch the hole. 

Is there any special care required for ear tubes?

Generally keeping the ears dry while bathing will help prevent water from entering the middle ears space and causing infection.

Do ear tubes hurt during airplane travel?

No.  In fact, ear tubes can help prevent the build-up of painful pressure in the ear that is typical for many children during altitude changes. 

Will ear tubes prevent future ear infections?

Ear tubes won’t prevent all future ear infections, but most children with ear tubes will have fewer infections than before that last less time and are less severe. 

How do I get more information about middle ear infections?

Dr. Shin and his team will be happy to discuss middle ear infections with you.  Please call 646.943.7985 to arrange for a private consultation or schedule an appointment online at our New York, NY office.