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Most of us tend to ignore our ears, simply because we feel that they are nothing more than the devices with which we hear. However, consider one day, without the ability to hear and think how difficult that day would be. You would not know if someone was calling you or if the doorbell was ringing. Ears are actually an important sensory organ of the human body and protecting them is just as essential as would be with any other organ.

As is the case with any other part of the body, the ears too can be affected by a range of problems and identifying them would be the first part of treating them. In this article, we will take a look at some of the most common ear related problems, especially those which affect children.

There are mainly two types of infections that plague children and in this article, we will look at both of them.

Middle ear infection:

Infections in the middle ear or otitis media are the most common in children and while they are non-life threatening, they can become causes for concern, if not treated on time. Generally, the infection comes along with the common cold and in most cases, it clears up when the cold does. However, in certain cases, the infection can get severe and medical intervention will be required to treat it.

Pus or fluids build up inside the ear and cause pain as well as affect the hearing. At times, the fluid build-up is so much that the ear drum will burst, and the through the burst drum, the fluid will escape. This will certainly give some relief to the child, and the ear drum will heal itself over some time.

Symptoms:

Some of the symptoms of a middle ear infection would include:

  • Earache
  • Headache
  • Discharge of fluid from the ear
  • Fever
  • Trouble hearing
  • Loss of sleep as well as appetite

The hearing loss happens because there is too much fluid build-up in the ear and the sound is not able to travel through the ear. The hearing loss is normally temporary and disappears once the infection is gone. However, if the infection becomes constant, it could create trouble and lead to delays in the speech development of the child, because they will be unable to hear properly.

Middle ear infections are normally associated with common colds, because these too are caused by virus or bacteria. Babies and young children are more prone to such infections, because the Eustachian tube is not mature enough. However, once the child is six years of age, the tube has also reached the stage of maturity, which is why, such infections also reduce.

Glue Ear:

This is a condition when the ear gets clogged because of the retention of a really thick fluid. The fluid is normally formed during a middle ear infection, but the fluid might disrupt hearing and cause pain to the child. Normally, the doctor will suggest antibiotics, but in case, the medication does not clear away the infection, a small surgery might be required. A tiny hole will be made and a tube will be inserted into the hole and the fluid will be drained out.

Symptoms:

Symptoms of glue ear include:

  • Reduced hearing
  • Trouble with speech
  • Problems with physical balance
  • Listening to the television or radio very loud
  • Babies might seem less responsive

Causes:

One of the most obvious causes is considered to be the improper functioning of the Eustachian tubes. If the tubes get blocked or do not open properly, this can lead to serious problems. The fluid could also seep into the nearby cells and this could damage the hearing. Quite often, after a common cold, the mucus that tends to build up, gets pushed into the Eustachian tube.

Such ear infections might seem normal and in reality are, however, if the same is not treated in time, it could lead to serious physical and psychological repercussions. As a matter of fact, it could create behavioural and developmental problems. Since the hearing will be reduced, children will not be able to hear well, leading to learning troubles. This could create a feeling of frustration and the child might not even known why it is happening.

In order to make sure that your child is not struggling with an ear infection, there are a few precautions that you can take. For starters, if you or anyone in your family is a smoker, they might want to stop, because passive smoking can lead to ear infections. If you send your child to day care, limit the time he or she spends there, because exposure to other children with infections could lead to your child getting one too. For infants, the best protection can be accorded by the mother and her breastmilk. Breastmilk is known to offer an enhanced level of immunity to the child and this will allow your child to fight the infection in a more effective manner.

 It is important to understand that most ear infections tend to clear up on their own and many a times all that is required is an over the counter pain killer. However, if your child does have an ear infection, it would be best that you consult an ENT specialist and should there be the need for any antibiotics, the sooner you start, the better it would be for your child.


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