Fluid Behind the Eardrum

What is otitis media with effusion?
It means fluid in the middle ear. The middle ear is behind the ear drum.
What causes it?
Fluid in the middle ear may have many causes.  It most often is caused by “germs” in the middle ear.  It can also occur from a cold or allergies.
Why do children get more ear problems than adults?
Children “catch” more “colds” than adults and this, along with problems due to poor draining of their middle ear through the Eustachian tube, makes them more likely to develop middle ear problems.  These problems often cause hearing problems due to a buildup of fluid in the middle ear. This is often called eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD).
How often does an effusion follow an ear infection?
It is very common after an ear infection.  One month after an ear infection had been treated 4 out of 10 children have fluid in the middle ear.  After 3 months, 1 out of 10 children still have fluid.
What are the symptoms?
Many times there are no symptoms of the middle ear fluid. Symptoms include noises in the ears, speech problems, sleep problems, balance problems and trouble hearing.
Can it be serious?
Yes, it frequently causes some degree of hearing loss.  If not treated, it can cause hearing, speech, learning and behavior problems with usually are temporary.  Keep all follow-up appointments with your child’s physician to have the ears checked until the fluid is gone.
What is the treatment?
Antibiotics and oral steroids do not help. Occasionally nasal steroids sprays will be used if your pediatrician feels there is an allergic comonent to the eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD).   In most cases, the best treatment is watching, since middle ear fluid will usually slowly go away with time.
What if the fluid doesn’t go away?
If the middle ear fluid does not go away, the usual treatment is to lance the eardrums (called a “myringotomy”) and to drain the fluid.  Tubes may then be put in the eardrums to keep the fluid from coming back.  This type of surgery is done by an ear, nose and throat physician.
What else can help?
Try some of the following:
·         If your child is still taking a bottle, do not allow him to take the bottle lying down.  He should be sting up when taking a bottle and should never be allowed to take a bottle to bed.
·         Smoke in the house due to cigarette, fireplaces not properly vented, etc., may cause more problems with middle ear fluid.  No one should smoke in the house or around a child.