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Home > Medical Services > Ear, Nose & Throat > Ear Care > Ear Disorders > Earaches, Ear Infections, Ear Pain, Ear Drainage, Swimmers Ear
Middle ear infections (otitis media) can develop after a cold or infection of the upper airways. The Eustachian tube helps to alleviate pressure and drains fluid from the middle ear to the back of the throat. The Eustachian tube can become blocked or swollen when an individual experiences a cold. Fluid remaining in the middle ear space can cause pressure build-up against the eardrum that may be uncomfortable; this may also develop into an infection of the middle ear fluid.
Middle ear infections can occur in children and adults. Acute otitis media symptoms often present with significant ear pain, decreased hearing sensitivity, fever and, in more severe cases, dizziness. If there is drainage from the ear, it may be the result of eardrum rupture, which can relieve pressure and discomfort. In most cases following eardrum rupture, the patient should be examined by a physician. The physician may recommend antibiotics and/or a pain reliever/fever reducer.
In individuals who have a history of recurrent ear infections or persistent middle ear fluid, pressure equalization tubes may be considered. A pressure equalization tube or tympanostomy tube is a small, cylindrical tube that is placed through the eardrum to relieve pressure and aerate the middle ear space. Depending on the age of the patient, local anesthesia or general anesthesia may be used. The procedure consists of a small incision that is made on the eardrum (myringotomy) and insertion of the tube where the incision was made. A pressure equalization tube allows fluid to drain from the middle ear space, which may otherwise accumulate and lead to discomfort or ear infections. Pressure equalization tubes remain in place over a period of several months to years and most tubes extrude naturally over time.