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What is Otitis Media?

What is Otitis Media?

Otitis media is one of the common ear disease of childhood and one of the most important causes of hearing loss in children. Otitis media is defined as a disease of the middle ear associated with a group of multifaceted inflammatory and communicable conditions (Qureishi et al., 2014).

The overall function of the hearing system is to sense the acoustic environment thus allowing us to detect and perceive sound. Every part of the ear is important in-order for the hearing to be flawless. While hearing can affect quality of life in any age, it has a serious impact on overall development of the child. Issues like delay in language development,leading to poor academic performance, social isolation, poor self-concept and poor social abilities could hamper the child’s growth and affect the proper functioning in the society. Of the many conditions that affect hearing in children, infections of middle ear is also prominent one, it is also considered in the Global burden of disease list of WHO and its impact is serious enough to warrant coordinated effort of government, health organizations, and volunteers. Otitis media is an inflammation of the middle ear and the tympanic membrane, which often occurs because of an acute upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) (Morris PS, 2009).

Acute stage of Otitis media is very common in children and there is a high spontaneous recovery rate. Some researchers suggested that it is an unavoidable illness of childhood and part of the natural maturation of a child’s immune system. Apart from this, suppurative complications can occur, such as perforation of Tympanic membrane, Otitis externa and Mastoiditis, as well as other sequelae affecting balance, motor control and hearing (Rovers MM, 2004) that are of concern to health specialists and hearing health specialists. This chronic condition can result in permanent hearing loss and therefore leads to speech and language delay (Perk et al., 2014).

Hearing loss caused by Otitis Media, although of mild to moderate degree, causes adverse effects on communication. Detecting it early is crucial as it could be mistaken for developmental disorder or attention deficit in children. Hence, with the help of well-qualified screening personnel, it is important for identification and early intervention.

While Acute Otitis Media (AOM) is a condition requiring only medical management and rarely impacts hearing permanently, Chronic Suppurative Otitis Media (CSOM), a consequence of untreated AOM, is a serious condition. It often causes medical complications if untreated like perforated tympanic membrane, hearing loss, Mastoiditis, Labyrinthitis (Antonelli et al, 1999). The hearing loss due to CSOM can also be permanent and of significant degree requiring specialized surgical interventions and or expensive amplification systems.


There is evidence suggesting risk for communication deficit involving higher order auditory processing skills in some pre-school and school-aged children with persistent early otitis media. Study also demonstrated that children with otitis media histories are facing more difficulty than their otitis free peers in recognizing speech in the presence of competing noise. These children also demonstrate behavioural and attention deficit in the classroom setting as well as poorer performance academically.

Masters and Marsh (1978) found a significantly higher proportion of learning-disabled subjects with middle ear pathology.

In a similar study, Freeman and Parkins (1979) found a 20% incidence of middle ear disease in Learning Disabled subjects as compared with a 9.5% incidence of Non-Learning Disabled subjects.

Hence, there is a clear evidence in the literature that the otitis media leads to permanent hearing loss, poor academic skills, and may lead to speech and language delay if untreated

At Bangalore Hearing & Implant Institute, A team of Audiologist and ENTs provide the management options for Otitis Media. For any information connect with us through Ph: +91 6366888883

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