Published on: 29 June 2015

Ear infections

It can be hard to know whether your child has an ear infection.

Infant ear infection(s)

It can be hard to know whether your child has an ear infection. This is especially true if your child is too young to say, "My ear hurts." Signs of an ear infection include:

  • Tugging or pulling at the ear
  • Crying more than usual
  • Fever
  • Not responding to sounds
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Inattentiveness
  • Wanting the television or radio louder than usual
  • Misunderstanding directions
  • Listlessness
  • Unexplained irritability

How can ear infections affect my child's hearing?

Fluid in the middle ear makes it harder for your child to hear sounds because of conductive hearing loss. Imagine if you were trying to hear something underwater. That is what it might sound like to your child. While some children have no change in their hearing, other children may have a short-term hearing loss. However, when ear infections occur over and over again, permanent damage can occur. Therefore, it is critical that ear infections be treated properly.

Cases of fluid in the middle ear (which do not involve an actual infection) present a special problem because symptoms of pain and fever are usually not present. Weeks and even months can go by before parents suspect a problem. During this time, the child may miss out on some of the information that can influence speech and language development.

What should I do if I think my child has an ear infection?

A physician should handle the medical treatment. Ear infections require immediate attention, most likely from a paediatrician or otolaryngologist (ENT). If your child has frequently recurring infections and/or chronic fluid in the middle ear, two additional specialists should be consulted: an audiologist and a speech-language pathologist.

Hearing in children
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