Ear infections (otitis media), are a relatively common problem, typically treated by a primary care physician. While many ear infections resolve on their own with symptomatic treatment only, some individuals suffer from frequent or chronic ear infections which benefit from management by an ENT specialist. At ACENT, we treat both adult and pediatric ear infections for Anchorage patients, often referred to us by their primary care physicians.
If you or your child are experiencing more than 4 to 6 ear infections per year, and/or your physician believes you should see a specialist, request a consultation online. You may also schedule with us by calling our office at (907) 279-8800. For our Homer and surrounding patients, please call (907) 235-0310.
Our highly-trained providers look forward to meeting you and answering all of your questions.Request a Consultation
Understanding Ear Infections
Causes of ear infections in children and adults can differ; some common causes include congenital or acquired problems with the Eustachian tube, and large adenoids. Sometimes a comprehensive exam may include imaging procedures like a CT scan to evaluate these structures.
Pain is the predominant symptom of an ear infection. One may first notice the pain at bedtime because it is often more pronounced when lying down. In children, earache, irritability and a fever of 100 degrees or more are the most common ear infection symptoms. Fluid draining from the ear and difficulty hearing may also be symptoms of an infection.
It is important to note that frequent ear infections, even if they resolve, can interfere with normal speech development. The treating physician may refer the patient to an audiologist for hearing evaluation.
Options for the treatment of ear infections include:
- Observation: Symptoms will usually improve within the first 2 or 3 days after the onset of an ear infection, and most infections resolve on their own within 1 or 2 weeks. A warm compress applied to the infected ear, pain medication, and ear drops may all be used to help relieve discomfort.
- Antibiotics: The physician may prescribe an antibiotic to fight the infection if the illness is caused by bacterial infection, or if the symptoms are severe enough to warrant it.
- Placement of Ear Tubes: Recurrent bouts of acute otitis media may necessitate the placement of tympanostomy tubes. These small (less than 2mm), grommet-like tubes are inserted into the eardrum to keep the middle ear aerated and to prevent the accumulation of fluid. Adults may have the procedure under local anesthesia; children typically require a brief general anesthetic.
- Adenoidectomy: Adenoids are a mass of lymphoid tissue located behind the nasal passages where the ears connect to the nose. If a physician determines that large or chronically infected adenoids are contributing to the problem, a minor surgical procedure can be performed to remove them.