What Causes Chronic Ear Infections
Children may experience frequent ear infections because the insides of their ears are not fully developed. Normally, a child’s Eustachian tubes -- which run from the middle ear to the back of the throat -- drain secretions from the middle ear and serve to keep the pressure behind the ear drum (middle ear) equal to that of the outer ear. Young children have short, straight Eustachian tubes, which can prevent proper pressure equalization. Swelling or inflammation from a cold or allergy can also block the tubes and cause a buildup of fluid in the middle ear. This fluid can become infected with bacteria or a virus.
Untreated chronic ear infections can lead to several complications, including:
In severe cases, a skin cyst (cholesteatoma) may develop in the middle ear. The cyst can cause problems with hearing and excessive ear drainage.
Tympanic Membrane Perforation
The eardrum may tear from repeated infections. The hole sometimes closes on its own but may need surgical repair if it does not.
While hearing loss associated with chronic ear infections is rarely permanent, it can occur when an untreated infection results in damage to the eardrum, the bones of the ear, or the hearing nerve.