Article published in KPJ Klang Specialist website
Link to website article: Chronic Otitis Media authored by Dr Mazita Ami
Chronic otitis media occurs due to chronic inflammation or infection of the middle ear mucosa and mastoid air cells.
It can occur from an acute otitis media infection that does not resolve completely or repeated infections. It usually presents as persistent ear discharge, reduced hearing and a perforated ear drum. Pain and fever are less common symptoms compared to patients with acute otitis media.
How does it occur?
It starts with an upper respiratory tract infection that causes nasal congestion and blockage of the Eustachian tube. This will lead to poor equalization of pressure in the middle ear thus causing fluid accumulation in the middle ear.
This fluid may get infected with bacteria and cause an acute infection.
If the Eustachian tube is continuously blocked or the infection not adequately treated the middle ear infection persists and lead to ear drum perforation and damage to the ossicles.
Treatment for chronic otitis media
Ear care is very important and patients are advised to prevent water entering the ears whilst bathing. Swimming is also discouraged when there is ongoing infection and perforated ear drums. This is to prevent the vicious cycle of repeated infections.
Antibiotic ear drops and oral antibiotics are prescribed. Nasal decongestants are often given to help alleviate the underlying nasal congestion.
If the infection resolve and the patient is left with a dry perforated ear drum, surgical repair of the ear drum (myringoplasty) can be performed. Sometimes there is need to repair the damaged ossicles at the same time.
However if the ear discharge and infection persists despite adequate medical treatment, mastoid surgery is advised to rid of the diseased mastoid bone and achieve a healthy ear.
When is it not just a ‘simple’ ear infection?
Otitis media or infection of the middle ear can spread to surrounding structures and cause complications. These complications include meningitis, brain abscess, inner ear infection and facial weakness. Symptoms to look out for are severe headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness/spinning sensation with hearing loss.