Middle Ear Fluid

Many people assume that middle ear fluid is the same as any other form of ear infection. Though the fact is that they are different. Read this article to get a brief overview on the important aspects of fluid in middle ear.
Ears consist of three different parts: outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. The middle section of the ear lies behind the eardrum and it has a major role in hearing mechanism. It helps in transmission of the sound obtained from the outside source into the inner ear where it gets converted into nerve impulses. In normal condition, the middle ear is filled up with air. When this air is replaced with fluid, it leads to middle ear fluid build up. This may affect one or both the ears.

Causes and Symptoms

Inside the ear, there is a small tube known as eustachian tube which connects the middle part of the ear with the back of the nose. If this tube is blocked and sufficient amount of air does not reach the middle portion of the ear, then the air in that area is replaced with fluid. It is mostly triggered by cold and flu or upper respiratory infection. Those who have suffered from middle ear infection in the recent past are prone to ear fluid as well. This is because, even though the bacteria gets killed, some of the mucus still remains behind in the middle ear and does not drain out.

An adult person can easily drain out the fluid from the middle ear within a week or so. But in small children, eustachian tube is not properly developed. As a result, it may take several weeks to eliminate the fluid. For this reason, middle ear fluid in adults is not as common as in children. Children who are exposed to a lot of smoke quite regularly are at a higher risk of this ear problem.

The most easily recognizable symptom in both adults as well as children is temporary hearing loss, which is often accompanied by mild to moderate pressure within the ear. You will find that your child may sit very close to the TV to hear properly. Fever and pain are not usually observed in most of the cases. However, small children may fail to identify the pressure in the ear and often express the discomfort as ear pain. If there is an excess amount of fluid in middle ear, then the child may find it difficult to maintain body balance. This becomes apparent particularly if the child is learning to walk.


No treatment is required in those cases, where the symptoms are mild and do not interfere with the child's everyday life. Here, the fluid drains out on its own over a period of 6-9 months. However, if the symptoms are severe or the fluid refuses to get drained out, then it requires proper treatment. Doctors mostly prescribe antibiotics to ensure faster draining out of the fluid. Within a matter of few days, the fluid build up is likely to get cleared up. Another advantage of using antibiotics is that it reduces the chances of any kind of infection inside the ear. Other medicines that are commonly used for this treatment are cortisone and decongestants. An excellent natural remedy for middle ear fluid problems is warm compression of the ear.

How to Drain Ear Fluid

If the medicinal treatment fails to bring about improvement in the condition of the patient, then the fluid needs to be removed by surgical means. The surgical procedure used for middle ear fluid removal is known as myringotomy. It involves insertion of a small plastic tube in the eardrum through a small incision made on it. Within a few weeks or months, all the fluid matter is going to come out through this tube. It will also help the air to fill up the middle ear area with air.

If your child has middle ear fluid, you cannot afford to neglect the problem. When it affects a very small child, then even slightest loss of hearing can have an adverse impact on the speech development of the child. It can be prevented to some extent by preventing any kind of ear infection in the child. It is also important to keep the child away from exposure to passive smoking.
By Bidisha Mukherjee
Last Updated: 9/29/2011
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