Ear Infections in Tampa and Spring Hill, FL
Middle ear infections cause a range of symptoms in adults and children, and the infections place you or your child at risk for hearing loss. Treatment by a qualified ENT specialist at Suncoast ENT Surgical Specialists ensures that middle ear infections are properly treated. Our physicians are board-certified in Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, so the residents of Tampa, Spring Hill and surrounding communities in Florida feel confident in their care for middle ear infections.
Middle Ear Infections in Children
Here at Suncoast ENT Surgical Specialists, one of the most common conditions that our specialists treat is otitis media, also referred to as a middle ear infection. The most common cause of otitis media is a bacterial or viral infection that causes the middle ear to become inflamed and uncomfortable. The condition is much more common in children than adults, and the average child will have at least one ear infection by three years of age, and one in three have three or more ear infections by the same age.
The Three Primary Types of Middle Ear Infections
- Chronic otitis media with effusion (COME): When the fluid in the ear does not drain properly, or there is an overabundance of fluid in the middle ear, it will often thicken and become mucoid. The typical side effect of COME is impaired hearing.
- Acute otitis media (AOM): AOM is the most common type of ear infection in children and takes place when the middle ear becomes infected and inflamed causing fluid to become trapped just behind the eardrum.
- Otitis media with effusion (OME): OME most often takes place after treatment for AOM when some fluid has remained behind the eardrum.
The side effects of an ear infection can range from extreme pain to little or no discomfort for your child. Unfortunately, many children that have an ear infection are not able to communicate exactly what they are experiencing. Parents who understand the signs and symptoms of middle ear infections are well-positioned to recognize when the expertise of Suncoast ENT Surgical Specialists is necessary.
- Hearing problems
- Issues with your child’s balances
- Tugging, scratching, or a fixation with their ears
- General irritability
- A decreased appetite
- Sleeping problems
- Fussiness after laying your baby flat
While these signs do not always mean that your child has an ear infection, it is important to bring them to the doctor immediately for a full check-up. When these infections are left untreated, they can lead to a wide variety of medical problems including hearing loss, a perforated eardrum, and an infection of the mastoid bone, brain abscesses, and meningitis.
There are small tubes that run from the middle ear to the back of the pharynx known as the Eustachian tubes. In children, these tubes are much smaller and have not formed as many twists and turns. These factors make ear infections much more likely in small children as a respiratory infection can pass through the tubes with ease.
Risk factors for the development of otitis media include:
- Viral infections
- Attending daycare
- Sleeping with a bottle
- Congenital anomalies such as a cleft palate
If your child has displayed any of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with a board-certified ENT specialist immediately. In addition to the initial treatments, our specialists suggest that all patients schedule a follow-up appointment so that we can ensure that the ear infection is completely resolved, and there are no lingering issues such as fluid still in the ear.
Typical treatments include:
- Anesthetic ear drops.
- For severe infections, we may suggest intramuscular or intravenous antibiotics.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers designed for children.
- 7 to 10 days of oral antibiotics for a single episode and 4 to 6 weeks of low-dosage antibiotics for ongoing ear infections.
- If all other treatments such as antibiotics fail to work, then surgery may be needed. The surgery will clear away all lingering fluid from the ears, but children should be fully evaluated by an ear, nose, and throat doctor before any procedures.
The physicians here at Suncoast ENT Surgical Specialists may also recommend surgery for your child:
Middle Ear Infections in Adults
While middle ear infections are much more common in children, they can still occur in adults at any age. Just as in children, there are three primary types of adult middle ear infections. The infections generally occur after the middle ear has become inflamed and traps fluid behind the eardrum. They mostly develop due to allergic irritation, bacterial infections, and viral infections.
The symptoms of a middle ear infection in adults are:
- A sudden loss of hearing
- A sudden loss of balances
- A fever with no other causes
- Continuous fluid draining from the ear
- Feeling as if the ears are full, plugged, or under pressure
The most common risk factors in adults are:
- Frequent air travel
- Sinus problems such as sinusitis
- Viral and bacterial infections
If you have been dealing with chronic ear infections, our specialists will often suggest endoscopic sinus surgery. This is a simple operation to remove nasal polyps and correct the nasal septum. If the infection is particularly severe, then it can actually infect the mastoid bone as well. An intravenous antibiotic therapy will often be used to treat the infection at first, but if this does not work then the mastoid bone may need to be opened, and the infection drained.
Outer Ear Infections
Otitis is the general medical term that is given to any ear infection. Otitis externa, on the other hand, is the medical term for a painful outer ear infection in or around the ear canal. Otitis externa is also known as “swimmer’s ear” due to the fact that it can take place after exposure to water containing bacteria and fungi.
While significant pain is the primary symptom of otitis externa, you may also experience:
- A swollen ear canal
- Sharp pain
- Pain or discomfort while chewing
Several factors can contribute to the development of external otitis, such as:
- Eczema in or near the ear canal
- Various skin allergies
- The overuse of hearing aids or earplugs
- Constant exposure to moisture or water
- Unsafe cleaning practices
Treating an outer ear infection is often much easier than treating a middle ear infection. This process typically begins with carefully cleaning the outer ear canal and then immediately applying anti-inflammatories and antibiotics directly to the tissue. If the problem is actually a fungal infection, then we may use a topical anti-fungal such as clotrimazole. A small wick may need to be placed in the ear to administer drops.
Oral antibiotics may be necessary if the infection has spread to the skin and soft tissue surrounding the ear. For patients that are exposed to moisture and water frequently, we do have agents to remove the water after showering or swimming.
Ear infections are most common amongst children, but adults are also at risk of developing ear infections. If you or your child are experiencing symptoms associated with ear infections, contact our Tampa or Spring Hill office at to schedule a personal consultation.