Middle ear infection, or otitis media, is one of the most common childhood afflictions, impacting up to 90 percent of children at least once before the age of 10.1 In most cases, ear infections clear up easily on their own and pose little long-term consequences.
But in some children, the infections become chronic, which may describe an ear infection that does not heal or recurring ear infections in a short period of time. This can cause temporary hearing loss, which also potentially poses a risk to speech development.
It is this latter concern that often prompts physicians to recommend ear tubes for the child, but research regarding its effectiveness suggests the long-term benefits of this surgery may be negligible, or even non-existent.
Because there’s so much confusion in conventional medicine on how to best treat ear infections, I wanted to highlight what some of the most recent research suggests works best… as well as offer proven natural treatments as well. But first, a bit of background about the different types of ear infections and their potential complications.
Ear Infections: The Basics You Need to Know First
If your child has pain, redness, or pus in their ear, along with a fever, these are signs of acute ear infection, which may be caused by either bacteria or viruses. In somecases, antibiotics may be useful for treating these infections, but not always (more on this shortly).
A second type of ear infection is called otitis media with effusion (OME), and it’s this type that often prompts the recommendation for ear tubes. Unlike acute ear infections, otitis media with effusion usually causes no pain; its primary symptom is the buildup of fluid in the middle ear.
OME is often caused by viral upper respiratory infections, such as colds. Just as your child gets a runny nose, the middle ear may fill with fluid, but it is unable to drain easily as it does from the nose. The fluid may become infected and may remain in the middle ear for a month or more, leading to problems with hearing.
While OME typically goes away on its own, concern has been raised that the temporary hearing loss it causes could pose a risk to young children’s emerging speech, causing developmental delays.
This is why physicians may advise a surgical procedure to put tubes in your child’s ears to help drain away the fluid. New research suggests, however, that this may have little impact on long-term speech, raising doubts over its benefits.