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Can Surgery Help for Ear Infections?

a hearing professional administering an ear checkup

Ear infections are relatively common and most people will experience them at some point in their lives. In most cases, you will need to see an ENT doctor who will give you a course of treatment to clear it up. However, some people experience chronic ear infections that do not heal easily. 

What are the symptoms of chronic ear infections? 

A chronic ear infection causes the same kinds of symptoms that you get with a standard ear infection but, in some cases, the symptoms are milder. However, they do not respond well to the normal treatments that an ENT doctor will recommend, and the symptoms do not subside.

Common symptoms include: 

  • Feeling of pressure inside the ear
  • Fluid coming out of the ear
  • Difficulty hearing
  • A light fever
  • Difficulty sleeping

If you notice some or all of these symptoms, you should see an ENT doctor right away and explore your treatment options. In some cases, the typical treatments may help, but some chronic ear infections require more extensive treatments like surgery. 

How can ear infections be treated? 

There is a range of different treatment options that can help to alleviate the symptoms of an ear infection and deal with the root cause of the infection. 

Home treatments 

Before you see an ENT doctor, there are some simple home treatments that can help you to manage the symptoms and find some relief from your ear infection. Using numbing ear drops may help with the symptoms, as will holding a warm cloth to the affected ear. Simple over the counter medications can also help to reduce symptoms caused by ear infections.

However, these home remedies will not deal with the root cause of the ear infection, so you will need to seek the advice of an ENT doctor for long-term relief. 

Medication 

Antibiotics are the most common form of treatment for ear infections. These antibiotics that are taken orally or, in rare cases, administered intravenously, will help to clear up the infection and the symptoms of your ear infection will begin to clear up within a few days and after a week, you should be back to normal. Your ENT doctor may also prescribe ear drops but only in certain cases as there are certain types of ear drops that should not be used if you have a perforated eardrum. 

Surgery 

In some cases, the antibiotics that your ENT doctor prescribes will not get rid of the ear infection and it will keep coming back. When this happens, you may need surgical treatments instead. This is the best course of action for chronic ear infections, especially if they are causing hearing problems in patients. 

How does surgery for ear infections work? 

There are a number of different surgical procedures that your ENT doctor may recommend to deal with recurring ear infections. 

Bilateral tympanostomy

Regular ear infections can be caused by a build-up of fluid in the middle ear. A bilateral tympanostomy is a surgical procedure that helps to drain this fluid and reduce the chance of ear infections in the future. It involves the insertion of small tubes through the eardrum to connect the outer ear to the middle ear. Then, the fluid can be drained to combat ear infections. 

A small incision will be made in the eardrum, and then the tubes will be inserted. Fluid will drain out over time and the tubes will usually fall out on their own after six to 18 months. However, if the tubes do not fall out on their own, they will need to be surgically removed. 

Reparation of ear bones

In some cases, the infection can cause damage to the small bones in the middle ear. If this is the case, you may require surgery to repair or replace these bones and clear out the infection. If the eardrum is damaged, surgeons can repair that as well. 

Mastoidectomy 

In rare cases, the infection can spread to the mastoid bone behind the ear. If this happens, you will need a mastoidectomy to clear out the infection from the bone and repair it if necessary. 

In most cases, ear infections can be cleared up with a course of antibiotics prescribed by your ENT doctor. However, if you experience recurring ear infections, there may be an underlying cause that needs to be dealt with. In these cases, surgery can be a very effective way to manage ear infections. 

If you are experiencing regular ear infections and current treatments are not working, do not hesitate to get in touch with ENT Physicians Inc. at 419-776-5028 and learn more about our treatment plans.