A middle ear infection is a common type of ear infection. It is also called otitis media. It is as a result of an invasion of bacteria into the section of the ear called the middle ear. The ear includes three areas: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Sound waves travel through the outer ear, into the middle ear, where they cause vibration of the tympanic membrane. These vibrations are then transmitted through the inner ear. In the inner ear, sound vibrations are converted into electrical impulses and carried by the 8th cranial nerve to the brain.
A middle ear infection can interfere with this process and result in ear pain, hearing impairment and other symptoms. Symptoms of a middle ear infection may vary between individuals in character and intensity. Middle ear infections occur mostly in infants and young children, although they can happen at any age.
The following factors could lead to middle ear infections
• Hay fever
• Scarlet fever
• Throat infections
• Nasal congestion
• Diving into water
• Upper respiratory infections.
Preventive measures include using the same precautions that are recommended to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, such as flu or colds. These include covering the mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. Antibacterial cleaners can also be used to clean hands and surfaces. It is also important to avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth, which can transmit an infectious virus or bacteria from the hands into the body.
Symptoms of a middle ear infection can vary in severity and nature between individuals. General symptoms include
• Ear pain
• Sleeping difficulty
• Pulling at the ears (infants)
• Crying (infants)
• Screaming (infants)
• Balance problems
• Ear fluid draining
• Hearing loss
Treatment of a middle ear infection may include antibiotics and pain medications. Antibiotics may be given as oral pills and/or in ear drop form. Corticosteroids may also be prescribed to reduce the inflammation in the ear and ear pain. Some mild cases of middle ear infection may not need antibiotic treatment and will go on their own.