Why are ear infections more common in children than adults?

Children are more likely than adults to have ear infections for a variety of reasons.

Children’s Eustachian tubes are more horizontal and smaller than those of adults. Even under normal circumstances, this makes it difficult for fluid to drain out of the ear. Fluid may not be able to drain if the Eustachian tubes are enlarged or plugged with mucus as a result of a cold or another respiratory ailment.

Since a child is still growing, a child’s immune system is less effective than an adult’s therefore Children find it more difficult to battle illnesses as a result.

The adenoids react to microorganisms entering the nose and mouth as part of the immune system’s response. The adenoids can occasionally get clogged with germs, leading to a long-lasting infection that can spread to the middle ear and eustachian tubes.


How can a physician or Audiologist identify a middle ear infection?

A doctor will inquire about your child’s health and any recent illness. Specifically he will ask regarding your child’s recent experiences with allergies, colds and/or sore throat. They also may ask regarding problems falling asleep, excessive crying, does he/she tug on his/her ears or complain of pain. The simplest way for a doctor to determine whether an ear infection is present is to examine the eardrum with a lighted device called an otoscope. An infection is usually indicated by a red or retracted eardrum.

To check for fluid behind the eardrum, a doctor may also use a pneumatic otoscope, which blows a burst of air into the ear canal. An eardrum without fluid behind it will move back and forth effortlessly as opposed to those with fluid.

If the diagnosis is still unclear, a doctor may do a diagnostic test called tympanometry, which employs sound tones and air pressure. A tympanometer is a tiny, soft plug that has an air pressure sensor, a microscopic speaker, and a tiny microphone. It gauges the eardrum’s flexibility at various pressures.


How is an acute middle ear infection treated?

Many doctors will recommend taking an antibiotic like amoxicillin, ciprofloxin and/or cipro for seven to ten days. Your doctor may also recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, or even an ear drop solution, to help with fever and pain. (Aspirin should not be given to a kid who has a fever or other flu-like symptoms unless specifically prescribed by your doctor. It is also important to communicate with your doctor if you provide your child with a herbal or natural medicine.)

If your doctor is uncertain about your child’s condition or is unable to make a definite diagnosis of Otitis media and your child doesn’t present with ear pain or fever, your doctor might ask you to wait a few days to see if the earache goes away on its own. In 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics released recommendations for medical professionals to regularly monitor these kids with ear infections who can’t be diagnosed, especially those between the ages of 6 months and 2 years. The guidelines advise clinicians to begin antibiotic medication if there is no improvement within 48 to 72 hours after the onset of symptoms. Sometimes an infection isn’t the cause of ear pain, and some ear infections can heal on their own without the need for antibiotics. Using antibiotics prudently and with good reason helps avoid the growth of bacteria that can become resistant to antibiotics.

Make sure your youngster takes the antibiotic exactly as directed and for the entire recommended duration if your doctor has prescribed one. Even though your child may start to feel better in a few days, the infection in the ear is still present. If you stop taking the medication too soon, the infection can return. Additionally, you should always go back for your child’s follow-up appointment so the doctor can determine whether the infection has subsided.


How long will my child need to recover?

Within a few days of the doctor visit, your child should feel better. Be sure to call your doctor if your child still appears and/or feels sick after several days. In some instances another antibiotic may be required for your child. It should be noted that the fluid in the middle ear might still be present after the infection has cleared up, but it normally goes away within three to six weeks.


About Doctor Godinez
My full name is Andres Godinez, and I have been a practicing Audiologist (Hearing Specialist) for over 20 years. I became an Audiology Aide for the Los Angeles and Ventura Unified School District in the late 90’s. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Audiology from the University of Redlands, Master’s degree in Audiology from California State University Northridge, and a Doctoral degree in Audiology from A.T. Still University. I began my professional career at White Memorial Medical Center in Boyle Heights, CA, and a local hearing aid dispensary. During that time I ventured out on my own evaluating patients in nursing homes. Fast forward to current day, where I can proudly say that my current practice, Sherman Oaks Ear and Hearing Institute, has helped thousands of patients in Southern California.

All the best,
Andres Godinez Au.D.