Otitis media is inflammation of the middle ear. If this becomes infected, it can cause lots of trouble. The infection starts similar to a cold or flu, or as simple as a sore throat. If these germs spread to the middle ear, it becomes an otitis media or an infection of the middle ear. If the otitis media stays on for a long period of time, we call that chronic. If there are long term problems associated with this, then many things happen. Most of the time it settles down by itself and nothing needs to be done.
Otitis media is the main cause of hearing loss in Aboriginal children, but adults can get it too. The condition ranges from being very mild to quite severe, and every child actually gets affected by otitis media. When it’s mild, it’s normal to experience some hearing loss for a short time. The good news is that otitis media can be treated, and most importantly, can be prevented.
The first signs of otitis media are not infection. Most commonly, people present the same way for hearing loss. The bad thing about this is that often it’s the wrong thing that they present with: behaviour changes, not paying attention, speech issues, when actual factor it’s the ears that are playing out.
Otitis media can present as infection as well. And sometimes you say it in this manner, you’ll get the same signs as you would with the cold or flu, but it affects the ears. So you notice fevers, runny nose, sore throat, and once infection is spread to the middle ear, there are other signs like headaches, ear ache, neck pain, and you might even get some discharge out of the ears. Babies can’t say this, and so they show different signs like pulling at the ears, rubbing their ears, crying a lot, poor sleepers, rubbing their eyes, rubbing their nose, all these different things they all relate to ear disease. So, it’s important if your baby experiences these to make sure your medical services actually check the ears.
To find out if you or someone else has otitis media, a nurse, a health worker or a doctor will use instruments to look inside the ear, and they should do the hearing tests as well.
Otitis media can disappear all by itself, but sometimes we need to treat this. The treatment differs from person to person. And the type of treatment will depend on what type of otitis media is. It may be as simple as having some antibiotics, but it could involve using some tissue spears or drops or medicines for your ears. Having a hearing test is important part of this to make sure that speech, language, and your baby is reaching all their milestones.
Sometimes we need to do surgery or actually insert a little tube then let all the fluid out. You or your child will need to get checked regularly to see if your treatments are working, and if you’re not getting better, then we can actually intervene. The best measure is monitoring the progress of your child’s development. If treatment is needed, it’s important to get help as soon as you possibly can. We want to avoid the complications, but most importantly, want the child to grow normally and healthily.
Don’t forget it’s important to wash your hands, blow your nose, cough into your elbow, to make sure we don’t spread any germs. By keeping your hands and ears clean, you help infections. If you have any worries about infections like otitis media, have a talk to your health worker, the nurse, or your doctor. Infection is very common in children, and it’s pretty easy to treat, especially when it’s getting picked up early. Getting checked, getting treated, and doing what you can to help prevent it, helps stop it from causing big problems in yourself, your family, and importantly, your community.