Ear infection is one of the most common reasons people are seen by ENT doctors. Ear infections can involve multiple parts of the ear. The three parts of the ear are the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. When the ear canal is infected it is called otitis externa, which is more commonly known as “swimmer’s ear.” The ear will be painful and very tender to the touch. This condition will typically respond with antibiotic ear drops. The most common area of infection is in the middle ear and is called otitis media. It is most often seen in children because the Eustachian tube is still developing and will often become blocked leading to infection. Symptoms of ear infections include pain in the ear, drainage, hearing loss, ringing, fever, or runny nose. If it is happening in a small child or baby they may only show signs of being irritable, fever and tugging the ear.
When patients have recurrent ear infections it is often necessary for them to receive ear tubes. Placing tubes in the ear or “myringotomy” is a minor procedure which can be done in the office in adults or under anesthesia in children. It is the most common surgery done for children in the country. The tubes are made of plastic and sit in the ear drum for about 1 year before the ear drum pushes them out. Their purpose is to ventilate the middle ear and allow infected fluid to drain out. If you or your child has recurring ear infections speak with your primary doctor for a referral to see if tubes are necessary.