Have you ever noticed how your hearing is affected when the air pressure changes around you?
Why does this happen?
It has to do with the middle ear, located behind the eardrum.
It's typically hollow and has three tiny bones in it that aid in hearing.
Connected to the middle ear is the Eustachian tube which drains mucus and keeps the pressure in the middle ear the same as the outside air pressure. This tube is usally closed until swallowing movement allows air in. You might hear this as a click or a pop.
If the Eustachian tube becomes blocked by swelling and congestion in the nose and throat, the air pressure cannot equalise. Pressure is created which draws mucus into the space. Common causes include a cold or flu.
If germs get in, Otitis Media can develop. Otitis Media is Latin for inflammation of the middle ear. Sometimes it's called middle ear infection or glue ear.
Are you at risk?
Babies and young children face an increased risk of Otitis Media because their Eustachian tubes are flatter and tend to block more easily. In addition their immune system isn't strong enough to fight off infections.
If you notice your child is irritable, has lost his/her appetite, complaining of ear pain, fever or there's pus coming out of their ear, seek medical attention. Some infections can clear up without any medication, while others may require the doctor to prescribe medicine.
Impact of Otitis Media
Because children are more likely to get Otitis Media, it can have an impact on their development particularly during their school years where learning is most important. A child with Otitis Media may experience hearing loss and not hear what's happening in the classroom. This may lead to behavioural problems.
Ear health screening
Regular ear health screenings can prevent Otitis Media and hearing loss. It can also catch ear infections where there are no symptoms. Talk to your ear health worker, nurse or doctor for more advice.