Most ear infections don't cause long-term complications. Frequent or persistent infections and persistent fluid buildup can result in some serious complications:
April 20, 2013
- Impaired hearing. Mild hearing loss that comes and goes is fairly common with an ear infection, but it usually returns to what it was before the infection after the infection clears. Persistent infection or persistent fluids in the middle ear may result in more significant hearing loss. If there is some permanent damage to the eardrum or other middle ear structures, permanent hearing loss may occur.
- Speech or developmental delays. If hearing is temporarily or permanently impaired in infants and toddlers, they may experience delays in speech, social and developmental skills.
- Spread of infection. Untreated infections or infections that don't respond well to treatment can spread to nearby tissues. Infection of the mastoid, the bony protrusion behind the ear, is called mastoiditis. This infection can result in damage to the bone and the formation of pus-filled cysts. Rarely, serious middle ear infections spread to other tissues in the skull, including the brain.
- Tearing of the eardrum. Most eardrum tears heal within 72 hours. In some cases, surgical repair is needed.
- Otitis media (ear infection). National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/pages/earinfections.aspx. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
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- Gould JM, et al. Otitis media. Pediatrics in Review. 2010;31:102.
- Ear tubes. American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/Ear-Tubes.cfm. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- Benzocaine topical products: Sprays, gels and liquids — risk of methemoglobinemia. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm250264.htm. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- Hoberman A, et al. Treatment of acute otitis media in children under 2 years of age. New England Journal of Medicine. 2011;364:102.
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- Ear infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/antibiotic-use/uri/ear-infection.html. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- Coker TR, et al. Diagnosis, microbial epidemiology and antibiotic of acute otitis media in children. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2010;304:2161.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. The diagnosis and management of acute otitis media. Pediatrics. 2013;131:e964. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/02/20/peds.2012-3488
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