Locally, this year’s cold and flu season has been rough. We’ve been seeing a steady flow of patients coming to the office for ear pain and/or pressure. One question we hear regularly is, “Can ear infections damage my child’s hearing?” We thought we would take a few minutes to give you some info regarding ear infections and your child’s hearing health.

Ear Infections 101:

Diagram of ear anatomy and an ear infection/fluid buildup

Diagram of an ear infection

An ear infection is inflammation of the area behind the eardrum, an area called the middle ear, where fluid can collect. The medical term for this is Otitis Media and is frequently seen in infants and small children. If your child has recently had a cold or flu, they may also get an ear infection because of the congestion – swelling of the nasal passages, throat and eustachian tubes – from the original illness. Sometimes ear infections and fluid buildup in children can be chronic and require a specialist’s visit.

Something to be aware of: your child can have fluid build up without an infection. This fluid build up can be just as damaging to hearing as an infection. Non-infected fluid behind the eardrum is sneaky because, without any obvious signs of infection, you may not realize there’s a problem.

A few signs of an ear infection in your child include:

  • Tugging at ears
  • Crying more than usual
  • Fluid draining from the ears
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Not responding to quieter sounds
  • Seems to not hear well

A few signs of hearing loss in children include:

  • Limited, poor, or no speech
  • Seemingly inattentive
  • Difficulty learning
  • Seems to want the volume on tv and other media turned up
  • Fails to respond to conversation volume-level speech
  • Gets easily frustrated in noisy situations

Protect Their Hearing!

Children with fluid buildup typically have what’s called “conductive hearing loss” and the loss is directly proportionate to the amount of fluid in the ear. The good news: once the fluid drains the loss is usually reversed. However, catching the loss early is extremely important! We recommend seeing your child’s pediatrician if you notice symptoms of an ear infection, as well as changes in your child’s hearing behaviors. The earlier you seek treatment for your child, both with their pediatrician and an audiologist, the better. We want your child hearing their best at school and at home.

We’re Here to Help

At Hearing Resources Audiology Center, we want to help you and your children with their hearing health. Contact us if you have any questions.