Ear infections, acute maladies of the middle ear caused by viruses or bacteria, affect millions of young children annually, states the American Academy of Pediatrics. Your Gaithersburg, MD children's doctor, Dr. Farnoush Jamali at Prime Pediatrics, advises parents to be vigilant about the symptoms of Otitis Media and to understand a bit about the hearing tests which help your health care professional assess how these illnesses change your little one's hearing.
Ear infections are a pain
Really, Otitis Media is no joke. The youngest of children suffer the most as their eustachian tubes, which connect the nasopharynx to the middle ear, become congested and inflamed after a cold or flu. Bacteria, viruses and mucus do not clear quickly because the Eustachian tube is shorter and more horizontally oriented in a toddler than in the older child, teen or adult.
The resulting symptoms are particularly disconcerting to the parent and to the child who has limited capability to express what is wrong. Typical symptoms include:
- Malaise and low-grade fever
- Ear pain, or pulling at the ear
- Reduced or muffled hearing
- Poor appetite
- Drainage from the affected ear
The symptoms develop because of fluid build-up in the middle ear, causing the ear drum, the part of the ear which vibrates in response to sound, to bulge. Hearing is reduced because the ear drum cannot move freely enough to transmit sounds normally to the rest of the inner ear.
Treating an ear infection
Some ear infections resolve on their own with minimal discomfort and intervention. Others cause severe symptoms and may even damage hearing, particularly if a child gets repeated episodes. Typically, when symptoms persist with one particular episode or if they are severe, the children's doctor in Gaithersburg wants to investigate further.
To determine exactly what is happening, Dr. Jamli will review your child's symptoms, perform a physical examination, including vital signs, and then visualize the ear canal and ear drum with a lighted otoscope. When fluid is present, the ear drum appears dull and bulging.
Another test is audiometry. This is the kind of hearing test we all received in school as children. The doctor introduces a series of audible beeps through headphones and asks the child to indicate if he or she can hear them. Beeps vary in volume and pitch. Your pediatrician also employs special ways to screen newborns, babies and toddlers for hearing issues.
Keep those ears healthy
Be sure to contact Prime Pediatrics if you suspect your child has an ear infection or is exhibiting signs of hearing loss. Please call the office for an appointment: (301) 977-2440.