February marks Kids Ear, Nose and Throat (E.N.T.) Health Month, instituted to promote awareness about the various E.N.T. ailments that affect children. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, E.N.T. conditions are the main reason why children visit their pediatrician. Ear infections have continually been the number one reason for a trip to a physician. While an earache could be due to something minor, such as wax build up, it could also indicate an infection. In some cases, this can result in childhood hearing loss. Therefore, it's crucial for parents to understand the causes of ear infections, visit a physician or specialist, take preventative measures, and educate themselves concerning treatment options.
Causes of Earaches and Ear Infections
An ear infection occurs when the tube that runs from the middle ear to the back of the nose becomes clogged. The tube in a healthy ear is free of fluid and has a steady stream of air circulating. When certain factors occur, trapped fluid in the middle ear causes bacterial growth. Pressure builds on the eardrum creating pain, commonly referred to as an earache. It's important to see a doctor to determine its severity. Causes of earaches and ear infections include:
- Swimmer's ear;
- Injury to the ear canal;
- Allergies, colds, and respiratory infections;
- Bacterial and viral infections;
- Bottle feeding a child while they're lying down;
- Second-hand smoke;
- Family history;
- Congenital disorders; and
- Improper head and neck anatomy.
Preventing Ear Infections
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, three out of four kids will develop an ear infection before the age of three. While this may sound alarming, there are ways to reduce the risk of infection.
- Parents should quit smoking or avoid smoking around the child.
- Practice good hygiene, such as encouraging children to wash their hands regularly.
- Vaccinate children against pneumonia and meningitis.
- Breastfeed babies to impart immunity against certain bacteria and viruses. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that children who are breastfed are less likely to contract infections, including ear infections.
- Bottle-feed children while they are upright.
- Get children yearly flu vaccines.
- Schedule regular check-ups with a pediatrician.
- Don't use cotton swabs or other foreign objects to clean the ears.
- Avoid exposing the child to other children who have colds or the flu.
Childhood Hearing Loss
If left untreated, ear infections can cause pediatric hearing loss. To learn language skills and speech, children need to hear. If a child has prolonged hearing loss after an ear infection, see a doctor.
“Hearing loss may indicate Eustachian tube problems and drainage tubes may need to be inserted into the ears.” At any time during childhood if hearing loss is experienced, it is wise to see a specialist, such as an Otolaryngologist (also known as an E.N.T. doctor).
If the hearing loss is due to an abnormality in the ear, hearing aids and reconstructive surgery can be considered when the child is older. In severe cases, a cochlear implant may be necessary to restore some level of hearing.
By taking earaches seriously and visiting a pediatrician at the first signs of discomfort, parents can prevent further damage to the ear. If congenital factors or an ear infection leads to childhood hearing loss, specialists can suggest the appropriate course of action.
At Maxim, we know that no two children are the same. That’s why our pediatric services are designed on a case-by-case basis, specific to the needs of the child. Contact your local Maxim Healthcare Services office to learn more about Maxim’s Pediatric Services.
This information is not meant as a substitute for professional medical or nutritional advice and consultation. When differences exist between the information here and information given to you by your healthcare provider(s), you should follow the advice of your healthcare provider(s). Any additional information or clarification needed should be sought from the Physician, Practitioner, Speech Pathologist, or Nutritionist who is familiar with the individual’s health and medical conditions.