University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Richard Smith, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery
First Published: 2000
Last Revised: March 2004
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
If your child seems slow to respond to your spoken requests,
doesn't pay attention to directions, or has difficulty speaking, she
may have a hearing loss due to an ear infection. "It's not unusual
for ear infections to go undetected in infants and young children,
and these can cause short-term hearing loss," says Dr. Richard Smith,
professor of otolaryngology at the University of Iowa College of
Medicine and staff physician at the UI Hospitals and Clinics.
Common symptoms of ear infections include redness inside the ear,
fever, sharp pain, irritability, trouble sleeping, and rubbing or
tugging of ears. In more serious infections, a yellow or yellow-red
drainage may occur, indicating the eardrum has burst. A fever means
that the fluid behind the ears is infected and treatment by a
physician is indicated. Antibiotics my be prescribed.
"It is difficult to prevent ear infections because children have
immature immune systems and are prone to infection," Smith says.
"Also, a child's eustachian tubes do not function as well as an
adult's eustachian tubes." Children with allergies are also more
likely to have ear infections, he adds.
Often children will have slight hearing loss after an ear
infection due to fluid remaining behind the ear drum. Usually the
fluid will disappear by itself, but in some children, it may persist.
If fluid remains behind the ear drum for three months or longer, or
if a child has recurrent ear infections, the insertion of pressure
equalizing (PE) tubes may be recommended, Smith notes. "PE tubes help
to ventilate the middle ear, and once the fluid is removed, hearing
is usually restored to normal," he explains.
If you think your child has a hearing loss, consult your