What Is It?
Chronic otitis media describes some long-term problems with the middle ear, such as a hole (perforation) in the eardrum that does not heal or a middle ear infection (otitis media) that doesn't improve or keeps returning.
The middle ear is a small bony chamber with three tiny bones – the malleus, incus and stapes – covered by the eardrum (tympanic membrane). Sound is passed from the eardrum through the middle ear bones to the inner ear, where the nerve impulses for hearing are created. The middle ear is connected to the back of the nose and throat by the Eustachian tube, a narrow passage that helps to control the air flow and pressure inside the middle ear. The middle ear can become inflamed or infected when the Eustachian tube becomes blocked, for example, when someone has a cold or allergies. When fluid remains in the middle ear, the condition is called chronic serous otitis media.
Sometimes a middle ear infection causes a hole (perforation) in the eardrum. A hole that does not heal within six weeks is called chronic otitis media. This problem can take one of three forms:
Problems with the middle ear, such as fluid in the middle ear, a hole in the eardrum, or injury to the small, middle ear bones, can cause hearing loss. In rare situations, infections in the middle ear can spread deeper inside the inner ear, causing a sensorineural hearing loss and dizziness. Rare, but serious, complications include brain infections, such as an abscess or meningitis. A chronic infection and a cholesteatoma also can cause injury to the facial nerves and facial paralysis.
Children are more likely to get middle ear infections. Because of this, they also are more likely to develop chronic otitis media. Doctors believe that children have an especially high risk of all types of ear infections because of several factors, including:
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