What is otitis media?
Otitis media refers to inflammation of the ear, or an ear infection, and is the most common cause of ear pain and 1 of 3 types of ear focus areas:
- Otitis externa - Regarding the outer ear
- Otitis media - A condition of the middle ear
- Otitis interna - To do with the inner ear
Who gets otitis media?
Although this condition is most often thought of as a children's issue, you can experience it at any age. Otitis media most frequently follows a bout with the common cold, the flu, or other respiratory tract infections.
What does "middle ear" mean?
The middle ear is the space behind the eardrum where small bones receive vibrations and send them to the inner ear. The middle ear is connected to the upper respiratory tract by a small channel termed the Eustachian tube. This is why the common cold or flu can lead to otitis media. Bacteria growing in the sinus cavities make their way up the Eustachian tube to the middle ear and continue growing.
What are the signs of otitis media in adults?
Adult symptoms include:
- Ear drainage
- Difficulty hearing
Are there tests for otitis media?
- Examination - The doctor uses an otoscope, a lighted instrument, to check ear, throat, and nasal activity and may also check breathing patterns
- Pneumatic otoscope - Specialized device allows doctors to examine the ear and decide whether there’s fluid behind the ear drum
- Tympanocentesis - The doctor may use a small tube that penetrates the eardrum to drain fluid to test it
- Tympanometry - Measures the activity of the eardrum by sealing off the ear canal, changing the air pressure in the canal, causing the eardrum to move to see how the eardrum responds
- Acoustic reflectometry - Tests how much sound from a specialized instrument is reflected back from the eardrum
What are the treatment options for otitis media?
- Observation - To see if the inflammation goes away on its own
- Ear drops