Ear infection – chronic : Treatment

Treatment

The health care provider may prescribe antibiotics if the infection may be due to bacteria. You may need to take antibiotics for a long time, either by mouth or sometimes into a vein (intravenously).

If there is a hole in the eardrum, antibiotic ear drops are used. For a difficult-to-treat infected ear that has a hole (perforation), a dilute acidic solution (such as distilled vinegar and water) may help.

A surgeon may need to clean out (debride) tissue that has built up.

Other surgeries that may be needed include:

  • Surgery to clean the infection out of the mastoid bone (mastoidectomy)
  • Surgery to repair or replace the small bones in the middle ear
  • Repair of the eardrum

Prognosis (Expectations)

Chronic ear infections usually respond to treatment. However, your child may need to keep taking medicines for several months.

Chronic ear infections are not life threatening, but they can be uncomfortable and may result in hearing loss and other serious complications.

Complications

  • Partial or complete hearing loss due to damage of the middle ear
  • Slow development of language or speech
  • Paralysis of the face
  • Inflammation around the brain (epidural abscess) or in the brain
  • Damage to the part of the ear that helps with balance

Permanent hearing loss is rare, but the risk increases with the number and length of infections.

Calling Your Health Care Provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:

  • You or your child has signs of a chronic ear infection
  • An ear infection does not respond to treatment
  • New symptoms develop during or after treatment


Review Date : 6/2/2009
Reviewed By : Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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