Children commonly suffer with ear problems. Practically every child will get at least one middle ear infection, and grommet surgery is one of the commonest procedures in children.
Having a toddler with a painful ear is distressing for all, whilst hearing problems can have a life-long effect on the child. Thankfully, many children's ear problems resolve with time. If not, good treatments are available that will help.
The ear is divided into outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The ear drum separates the outer from the middle ear.
A common outer ear infection is otitis externa, which usually affects teenagers and young adults.
The commonest problem in children is middle ear disease, such as Glue Ear, Acute Otitis Media, or perforated ear drums.
Inner ear problems cause hearing loss which hopefully will be picked up at hearing screening done shortly after birth.
Children can also develop problems around the outside of the ear, such as pre-auricular sinuses or prominent ears.
Middle ear problems are the commonest, but why is that? The Eustachian tube is the culprit here. This tube connects the back of the nose to the middle ear. In children, the tube is shorter and flatter than in adults, which means that it doesn't work as well. A normal Eustachian tube should stop bacteria travelling from the back of the nose to the middle ear, but the childhood Eustachian tube often allows bacteria to get to the middle ear. In addition, the Eustachian tube should allow air to go from the back of the nose to the middle ear, but in children this mechanism often fails. So it's easy to see why so many children have middle ear problems!