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Ear Infections & Hearing Loss


Ear Infections and Protection Against Hearing Loss

Ear infections are usually caused by blocked Eustachian tubes in the middle ear which do not allow air in or fluid out. Most infections can be treated with the antibiotics, but some children remain infected.

Placing pressure-equalizing tubes in the ears allows the fluid to drain, the ears to ventilate, and the infection to clear. Most importantly, this prevents further pain and the potential of permanent hearing loss.

Middle ear infections are among the most common childhood illness. They are also among the most painful for children, and the most frustrating for adults.


The middle ear space is connected to the back of the nose and throat by the Eustachian tube. This tube has three functions:

  1. Equalizing pressure on the inside of the eardrum
  2. Draining fluid from the middle ear when it accumulates
  3. Preventing germs from entering the middle ear from the throat

Young children are more susceptible to ear infections from colds or allergies. Also, unlike an adult’s Eustachian tube, which slopes downward, a child’s is short and horizontal. This positioning makes it easier for infections to enter the ear from the throat during childhood.

  • Constant crying
  • Poor appetite
  • Difficulty gaining weight
  • Restless nights
  • Changes in behavior
  • Difficulty with hearing
  • Delayed speech
  • Continuous pulling on the ear
  • Fever
  • Ear drainage
  • Improper balance

The Surgical Procedure

The procedure to insert pressure-equalizing tubes is the most common operation for children in the U.S. It is brief and causes no discomfort. General inhalation anesthesia is used for this procedure.

After examination, your child’s condition and the surgical procedure will be explained to you. You will also be provided with written descriptions of the procedure and follow-up home care which include what to do if you notice bleeding, if the ear plugs are unsatisfactory or if water gets into the ears. Please contact us at any time with questions or for clarification. At the time of surgery, any fluid in the ear is suctioned out and the tubes are carefully inserted. They will stay in place for about six to eighteen months and then usually come out on their own. The tubes are so small that they may not be detected.

Dr. Rande Lazar checks ear infection in child

The child should experience little or no pain following surgery. They may follow their normal diet when fully awake. Any discomfort should be managed with Tylenol. Ear drops may be prescribed. Drainage may be yellow or pink tinged following surgery.

The child may return to school and resume normal activities the day after surgery. As long as there is a tube in the ear, care should be taken to avoid water contamination when bathing, washing hair, etc. Water must be kept out of the ears to prevent infection, so ear plugs must be used when bathing, washing hair, swimming or engaging in similar activities. Ear molds may be necessary for underwater activity. Ear plugs are available in our office.

Hearing Aids and Restoration of Hearing Loss

It is possible to have a hearing loss but not know it simply because it does not interfere with everyday living. Or you may experience difficulty hearing only in certain situations because of ambient sound.

If it is determined that your hearing problem cannot be helped by medical or surgical treatments, a hearing aid might be prescribed.

Hearing Aids and Restoration of Hearing Loss

The ear hears through three separate parts with three separate functions: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. These three parts translate sound into signals the brain can interpret and understand. A sound may be distorted or lost anywhere along this path.

Head injury or stroke may cause permanent damage. Streptomycin, diuretics, ototoxic drugs and large doses of aspirin can cause damage to the inner ear. Heart or kidney disease, diabetes, smoking, emphysema or stroke can disrupt blood flow to the inner ear, also causing permanent hearing loss.

Hearing impairment commonly occurs with age, although it may result from trauma, disease, noisy exposure, medication and heredity. This impairment is defined as any degree of loss for the hearing of loudness or pitch outside the normal range.

Some indications of hearing loss are:

  • Inability to hear very quiet sounds
  • Difficulty distinguishing between similar sounding words
  • Listening to the television or radio with abnormally loud volume
  • Trouble distinguishing conversations from surrounding the noise
  • Aiding hearing by increased reliance on sight
  • Loss of very high or very low pitch
  • A feeling of insecurity or isolation
  • Delayed speech

The Hearing Aid Function

A thorough hearing test must be administered to help pinpoint the exact amount and type of hearing loss. Following examination, you will be presented with hearing aid options – if they are available. It is important to remember that while hearing aids make sound louder, they do not make speech clearer. They also cannot restore hearing; rather, they simply amplify sound to the desirable level.
Memphis pediatric ENT office of Dr. Rande Lazar

Generally, there are five basic designs for hearing aids.

  • A body type hearing aid is worn on the body with a cord connecting the aid to a receiver that snaps onto the ear mold.
  • A behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid is smaller and requires no connecting cord. It is positioned behind the ear and is connected by clear tubing to the ear mold.
  • An eyeglass hearing aid is a variation of the behind-the-ear model, simply mounted on a pair of glasses.
  • All-in-the-ear hearing aids are ear molds that contain all of the hearing aid mechanisms.
  • Canal hearing aids are actually inserted in the ear canal, making them the smallest type available.

Clinical research has indicated that a hearing aid wearer derives the most benefit from hearing aids when wearing two devices. This increases the quantity of sound signals received in both ears. Hearing aids help those who have experienced hearing loss find a way to rediscover some of what they had lost with their hearing. Many people with a hearing problem can be helped with medical treatment, surgery or hearing aids.