Fluid in the middle ear maybe due to a blocked eustachian tube caused by a cold, sinus or respiratory infection. The eustachian tube connects the middle ear with the back of the throat. Normally, this tube lets fluid drain out of the middle ear. But sometimes the eustachian tube swells. It can become partially or completely blocked. This can cause fluid to build up in the middle ear. If the eustachian tubes are blocked, fluid in the ear cannot drain normally.
A middle ear infection often begins as a common cold, influenza (flu), sinusitis, or strep throat infection. The nose and throat are connected to the ear by the eustachian tubes; bacteria enter the nose or throat and travel up the eustachian tubes to the middle ear. Fluid often builds up inside the ear during a cold or allergies. Usually the fluid drains away, but sometimes a small tube in the ear, called the eustachian tube, stays blocked for months.
The accumulation of fluid in a blocked eustachian tube may increase the pressure within the middle ear causing pain and ear drum rupture. Although the ear drum will repair itself, frequent rupture (which can occur with chronic ear infection) may result in the development of scar tissue on the ear drum and hearing loss. Middle ear infections are common in children because their eustachian tubes are narrow and easily blocked.
Middle ear infection, also referred to as otitis media, is a bacterial or viral infection with symptoms including earache, temporary hearing loss, and fluid discharge. A middle ear infection that does not clear up on its own may require treatment with antibiotics.
Factors that increase the likelihood of developing ear infections include:
● Younger age (children aged six months to two years)
● Group child care
● Seasonal factors (autumn and winter)
● Poor air quality (exposure to tobacco smoke or high levels of air pollution).
Typical signs and symptoms of middle ear infection include:
● A feeling of pressure or blockage in the ear
● Earache - pain in the ear that is sharp, dull, or throbbing
● Muffled hearing
● Discharge from the ear, known as runny ear
● Dizziness or loss of balance
Note: Earache is a common symptom of middle ear infection but not all earaches are caused by a middle ear infection. A build-up of ear wax in the outer ear, or changes in altitude or air pressure, are examples of other causes of blockage or earache.
Ear infections usually clear up on their own, so treatment may begin with managing pain and close monitoring of the condition. However, ear infection in infants and severe cases are likely to require treatment with antibiotic medication. The eustachian tubes are normally closed and open when we swallow, yawn or chew. This allows air to enter into the middle ear and fluid to drain out.
How can you care for yourself at home? Suggestions to help open the eustachian tube:
● Blow the nose (gently).
● Drink more warm fluids (this thins the mucus helping it to drain out).
● Chewing sugarless gum.
● Pinch your nose shut, close your mouth and blow your nose gently.
● Inhalation using Vicks or eucalyptus. Place a small amount in a bowl of hot water place a towel over your head and breath in the vapour.
● Place a warm hot-water bottle or heated wheat bag over the affected ear.
● Olive oil drops warmed and place in the ear.
Note: You should never use cotton buds to clean your ears or put anything into the ear that has not been prescribed by a doctor, as the eardrum is delicate and can be easily damaged.
Fluid In Middle Ear