It may sound minor, but a child’s constant complaining that their ears “feel funny” could hint at an ear infection.
According to Dr. Lynne Lim, This could even eventually lead to a brain infection if left untreated, so don’t ignore it!
1. Chronic Middle Ear Infection
There is a tiny air space behind the eardrum, which contains 3- to 4-millimetre ear bones and connects with the nose via the eustachian tube.
A child’s eustachian tube is shorter and more horizontal than an adult’s. As such, there is an increased risk of silent, middle ear low-grade infection and fluid collection due to adenoid and nose infections, allergies, gastric acid refl ux or milk contamination.
After a common cold, this can persist for up to three months if untreated, and may even cause a 50-percent decrease in hearing.
As a child’s ear drums are hard to visualise and he might not complain, his constant ear tugging is often dismissed as excess ear wax or teething.
2. Acute Middle Ear Infection
Often accompanied by fever and pain, risk factors include cigarette smoke, bottle feeding while lying down and pacifiers.
Treatments range from lifestyle and medical management (think anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, pain-relief medications) to grommet tube placement and adenoid removal.
If there is no improvement after two days, especially in younger kids, antibiotics may be needed to prevent brain infections.
3. Ear Canal Infection
Typically caused by improper hygiene, dirty pools, traumatic ear digging, narrow ear canals or skin disorders, this infection usually has smelly ear discharge.
A thorough ear cleaning may be needed before antibiotic and antifungal ear drops can work.
In stubborn cases, the doctor must first exclude an ear bone infection or other abnormal but noncancerous ear growths, also known as an erosive cholesteatoma tumour.
4. Asymptomatic Maternal Infection
Toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus (a common virus that belongs to the herpes family of viruses) or other genetic conditions during pregnancy could result in inner ear congenital hearing loss in your newborn.
This condition is painless and your child will not be able to tell you that there is a problem with his ears. Without proper testing, even moderate to severe deafness can be missed for years. This makes specialist ENT evaluation and age-appropriate tests in soundproof rooms by audiology professionals crucial.
A newborn may need to undergo an auditory brainstem response test when asleep, while 3-year-old could require audiometry testing and a 5-year-old with behavioural or intellectual challenges might need a combination of tests.
Early intervention with hearing aids and auditory verbal therapy is beneficial. Cochlear and bone-anchored implant surgery is reserved for severe hearing loss only.
By The Finder, December 2016
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