What is Fluid Accumulation in the Ear and What Causes It?
Fluid accumulation in the ear, also known as otitis media with effusion or serous otitis, is the buildup of fluid in the middle ear cavity behind the eardrum, often without high fever or severe pain. It can occur after upper respiratory tract infections such as colds, the flu, sinusitis, and allergies. In children, persistent fluid accumulation in the ear is frequently associated with enlarged and inflamed adenoids. In adults, fluid accumulation in one ear may sometimes be indicative of masses in the throat region.
What Are the Symptoms of Ear Fluid Accumulation?
Fluid accumulation in the ear is predominantly seen in children, and the most significant symptom is hearing loss. Clues to hearing loss due to fluid accumulation may include a child not responding to loud noises and a drop in school performance. In adults, symptoms can include ear fullness, hearing loss, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
How Is the Diagnosis of Ear Fluid Accumulation Made?
The diagnosis of fluid accumulation in the ear is made through examination using a microscope and camera, which allows the doctor to observe changes in the eardrum’s color, thickness, and depressions. Middle ear pressure tests and hearing tests can also support the diagnosis. Detailed examination of the throat area with cameras may also be necessary.
How Is Ear Fluid Accumulation Treated?
The primary treatment for ear fluid accumulation is medication. Concurrent treatment of upper respiratory tract diseases is also essential. During medication treatment, the patient is closely monitored. If there are no significant changes, medication treatment can be extended with regular follow-up appointments, provided there is no advanced hearing loss or significant changes in the eardrum.
Is Surgery (Ear Tube Placement) Necessary for Ear Fluid Accumulation?
If fluid accumulation in the ear does not improve with medication treatments, a decision may be made to treat it surgically. This procedure is often performed under general anesthesia in children, while in adults, it can be done under local anesthesia. During the surgery, a tiny hole is made in the eardrum to drain the fluid from the middle ear. The eardrum and middle ear are also assessed. In some cases, this procedure alone may suffice, but in others, the placement of ear tubes in the eardrum may be necessary after this step.
What Should Be Considered After Ear Fluid Accumulation Surgery?
The ear tube allows for prolonged ventilation of the middle ear. After the surgery, it’s essential to protect the ear from contact with water. To achieve this, cotton balls with petroleum jelly or ready-made earplugs can be used during baths. When entering a pool, wearing a swim cap or earplugs is advisable. Typically, ear ventilation tubes, which are expelled from the body after about 3-6 months and can be removed by a doctor before the summer season, are placed in the patient’s ear. In cases of chronic Eustachian tube dysfunction in children and adults, tubes may be kept in place for a longer duration. While most children who have their adenoids removed and ear tubes placed do not require tube replacement, a small number may experience recurrent fluid accumulation in the ear.