Sleepless nights, endless crying, and a fever that just won’t quit. Could it be that your child has an ear infection? It’s a definite possibility, especially if they’ve just had a viral cold. Dealing with sniffles is one thing, but the prospect of an ear infection may leave you feeling more worried than usual. That’s why we’ve put together this blog to help you figure out if your child has an ear infection and what you can do about it.


Let’s start with some ear anatomy

Your ears are made up of three parts: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. It’s the middle ear that is involved in ear infections. It sits right behind the eardrum and is connected to the upper throat and the nasal cavity by a small tube called the Eustachian tube. This tube is responsible for draining the fluid that normally sits in the middle ear.

When your child gets a cold, it’s not just their nose getting stuffed up and their throat getting swollen; their Eustachian tubes suffer too. As these tubes get congested, they can’t drain the fluid in the middle ear and that’s when bacteria that normally live in the middle ear take over, which results in an ear infection.

Children are more prone to ear infections because their Eustachian tubes are narrower, shorter, and lie more horizontally than in adults – all of which make it easier for them to get blocked.


How can you tell if your child has an ear infection?

For older children, it’s easier to figure this out. They might complain of a pain, ache, or pressure in their ear, they might struggle to follow conversations, as their hearing is affected by the infection, and they may also feel dizzy.

For younger children and babies, you’ll need to look out for other signs including tugging at or sticking their fingers in their ears, slower responses when you talk to them, secretions from the ear, a general increase in irritability, and difficulty sleeping.

For children of all ages, a persistent fever is another sign of an ear infection. Common colds usually result in a fever for 24-48 hours, while an ear infection may cause a fever to drag on for longer.

If these symptoms are sounding worryingly familiar, then your child may have an ear infection. So, what can you do about it?


Treating an ear infection

For children older than 6 months with fairly mild symptoms, giving them pain relief and something to help with the fever, such as Tylenol, is often enough. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s dosage instructions when giving Tylenol.

If symptoms are anything more than mild, or your baby is less than six months old, it is a good idea to get them to a doctor. In some cases, your family doctor will advise that you see an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor.


What will your family doctor do?

Your doctor will factor in a few different things before deciding on how to treat your child. This includes how old your child is, how long the symptoms have been going on, and how the eardrum looks.

Taking all of this into consideration, your doctor might suggest taking a course of antibiotics. If not, they may suggest keeping a close eye on your child and giving them pain relief.

As we mentioned earlier, sometimes you might be advised to see an ENT doctor. This is usually the case with children who have ear infections very often or have chronic ear infections that last a month or longer. In these cases, the middle ear can become damaged, which can lead to some level of long-term hearing loss.


What can an ENT doctor do? 

An ENT doctor will help determine if getting your child fitted with ear tubes will help to reduce the number of ear infections they get. This is a straightforward outpatient procedure that is very effective in treating chronic ear infections.


Here to help

If you’re concerned that your child has been getting ear infections too frequently, all you need to do is bring them along for a hearing assessment with one of our ENT doctors at Scottsdale Ear, Nose & Throat, your award-winning center for ear, nose, and throat care in Scottsdale. We’ll make sure your child gets the care they need. Put your mind at ease and give us a call at 480-684-1080.

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Dr. Debra L. Hamila, Au.D., CCC/A

Debra Hamila received her master’s degree in audiology from Cleveland State University and her Au.D. from Arizona School of Health Sciences and has been a practicing audiologist for more than 33 years. She has worked in a variety of ENT offices, hospital, and clinical settings.
    You don’t realise you’re walking with a rock in your shoe until you’re able to hear again – Regina’s Story

    Regina has suffered from hearing problems since she was an infant, recognized as regular chronic ear infections. And, as with unfortunate events, she has experienced a multitude of audiology catastrophes.

    It was many years before Regina crossed paths with Scottsdale Ear, Nose & Throat; where her lifetime of hearing problems was addressed effectively and treated with the delicate care that she desperately required.

    Regina’s journey began when she was taken to a regular paediatrician by her mother from a young age. Her ears were, what we describe as an audiologists recipe for disaster, ‘flushed out’.

    This dangerous procedure caused a nasty infection, which spread to her mastoid bone and, at the age of 15, she underwent a tympanoplasty mastoidectomy to stop the infection spreading. This only forbade her future struggles with hearing loss. 

    As with poor diagnosis, Regina was faced with another canaloplasty which didn’t work. Soon after, she received a BAHA, which is a cochlear implant in her skull that acts as a sound processor that detects sound and transforms it into vibrations. 

    However, suffering from a history of poor hearing care, she was unaware of the former issues her ear presented.

    By now, this would be described as any audiologists nightmare. But, we’re proud to have helped Regina on her road to optimum hearing and reconnect her to her loved ones.

    When she arrived at Scottsdale Ear, Nose & Throat it was evident that she was losing hearing on her right side. At this point, she was fitted with a ReSound hearing device, which provided the catalyst to a new and improved hearing.

    The first thing Regina noticed was the indefinite sound she had been making whilst emptying the dishwasher, completely unaware of the noise she was making!

    “I mean, the detail that I can hear now it’s like, Whoa, I didn’t realize I was making that much noise. I need to be quieter!”

    Treated with professional care, Regina received a comprehensive hearing assessment with Dr. Debra Hamila.

    “I just love, love, love Dr. Hamila, she is such a professional and loving person. I was so impressed with the office and what she did with the ReSound, I just love her.”

    Like many others, it takes years for people to realize they have a hearing problem. Regina described this moment as life-changing.

    “You don’t realise you’re walking with a rock in your shoe until you’re able to hear again. Especially now I’m a full-time Grammy Nanny, I can hear so much more and it has enriched my life incredibly.”

    What advice would you give to someone who is deliberating on taking the first step towards better hearing?

    “My advice to them would be to have a hearing test. Especially as we age our hearing goes down. It’s really unfortunate that people carry their pride and are not willing to learn to walk with the rock in their shoe. You don’t realise you’re waking with a rock in your shoe until you’re able to hear again.”

    Regina is one of many patients who has been impacted by our audiological services and we are proud to have been able to provide the tool towards better hearing and a lifetime of many more memories.