Ear Infections in Children 

Ear infections, the most common reason children seek pediatric care other than well-baby visits, can be acute, recurring or associated with chronic fluid buildup behind the ear drum. Ear infections can lead to various symptoms, including fevers, not sleeping at night and hearing loss that affects your child's speech and language.

Part of the evaluation of a child with frequent ear infections is testing his or her hearing. These hearing tests are done in different ways, depending on the age of the child. If medical treatment (usually antibiotics) does not solve the problem, pediatric specialists at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital usually place pressure-equalizing tubes across the drum while your child is under general anesthesia. This procedure ventilates the middle ear and decreases the frequency of ear infections. 

In children with severe and chronic problems, more comprehensive surgeries and reconstructions of the mechanism of hearing may be necessary.

We are also experts in evaluating children with Down syndrome, who often have narrow canals that are difficult to visualize in the pediatrician's office. Our ear, nose and throat specialists participate in the evaluation of ear problems in children with craniofacial abnormalities as part of the University of Chicago Medicine craniofacial team. This team assists children with problems such as cleft lip and palate and congenital ear atresia.

Acute vs Chronic Middle Ear Infections (Otitus Media)

Otitis media (middle ear infections) can occur as a results of an upper respiratory infection. It is a condition that most commonly affects children and happens primarily during the winter and spring months. Risk of infection can increase if a child is in daycare, was not breastfeeding, has smoke exposure, or a family history of ear infections and upper respiratory infections.

Patients with acute middle ear infections typically present with fever, irritability, pain and hearing loss. It is most commonly treated with antibiotics. In chronic middle earn infections with effusion, fluid ends up staying in the middle ear after an infection. This fluid can lead to pressure and hearing loss.

Both acute and chronic middle ear infections can become a problems if there are too many ear infections during a certain period of time or if the fluid stays in the ear too long.  

Outer Ear Infections/Swimmer’s Ear (Otitis Externa)

This inflammation of the ear canal that is often due to bacteria or fungus. The symptoms are most commonly pain, swelling of the ear canal, drainage and redness of the outer ear. This condition is commonly treated with antibiotic ear drops and keeping the ear dry.