Q: Should I worry about hearing loss since my daughter has had frequent ear infections?
A: While most ear infections typically heal with time and do not cause hearing loss, it is understandable that you would be concerned. A thorough medical examination to determine if an ear infection is present will also help you learn how to prevent ear infections.
Most ear infections begin with the common cold. A typical toddler has four to eight colds a year, so this could be the reason for your daughter’s frequent ear infections. You can help reduce the risk of ear infections by breastfeeding for at least three months, avoid exposing your baby to second-hand smoke, and limiting pacifier use after six months of age. Also, follow the recommended vaccine schedule including influenza and pneumococcal vaccines because these help protect your baby from many illnesses.
Symptoms of an ear infection can be subtle. The first sign is having a cold. If your daughter has a cold, wakes at night and is irritable and hard to comfort, she could have an ear infection.
We recommend treating the pain as the first step. Use ibuprofen for infants older than six months or acetaminophen for children of any age. A heating pad or warmed olive oil drops into the ear may provide comfort. Keep your child upright to relieve some pressure on the inner ear. Typically, pain begins to subside within a few hours.
The body most often heals itself and that is the case in approximately 80 percent of childhood ear infections. However, there are specific reasons why antibiotics may be necessary. Ear infections should always be evaluated by a medical professional to help make this judgment and follow-up on the condition of the eardrum in order to avoid persistent ear problems.
Your pediatrician is your best source for information about preventing and evaluating ear infections to help prevent structural damage that could lead to hearing loss.