Chronic Ear Infection: Chronic Otitis Media

Chronic ear infection (chronic otitis media) is more harmful than acute infection, because the slow and long-lasting effects can cause permanent hearing loss. Acute infection will develop suddenly while a chronic condition is difficult to detect until it is well established. Chronic otitis media can result from persistent inflammation, or swelling of adenoid tissue behind your nasal passages. Occasionally, adenoid problems occur in children. In adults, blockage can stem from scarring of the Eustachian tube from previous infections or nasal allergies.


Seek medical attention if pus is coming out of the ear canal, if there is hearing loss or if the ear continues to hurt. An ear exam conducted from an otoscope can identify where the bacteria location is. A computerized tomography (CT) scan of your head can determine if the infection has spread to the mastoid process.


Your doctor can prescribe medication to treat chronic ear infection, or relieve nasal and sinus congestion if the condition is due to allergies. If your child or yourself have had multiple or frequent ear infections, your doctor may suggest a low dosage of antibiotic over some time (a couple of months). This is applied for preventive measure. Antibiotics are used to prevent bacteria growth.

The bacteria responsible for creating the ear infection, and they are becoming more resistant to antibiotics. Antibiotics may not be the only solution as an ear infection can still occur. Prolong use of antibiotics can contribute to the growth of forming a new bacteria resistant to medication.

Recurrent ear infections that do not respond well to antibiotics, are treated with the help of a surgical procedure. A small plastic tube is surgically inserted through a hole made in the eardrum, this will help ventilate and drain the middle ear. Surgery is an option if fluid persists in the middle ear for more than three months. If left untreated it can result in hearing loss.

The surgical procedure on chronic ear infection is performed under general anesthesia, and the operation is over in less than 10 minutes. The operation uses a small microscope and instruments to make an incision in the eardrum to remove any fluid, blood or pus. A tiny plastic or metal tube is inserted to suck any remaining fluid. Hearing will improve immediately after the procedure.