Serous Otitis Media

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Serous otitis media is fluid trapped behind your tympanic membrane (eardrum), without an ear infection. Your eardrum is in your middle ear. Serous otitis media is also called otitis media with effusion. You may have fluid in your ear for months, but it usually goes away on its own. The fluid may be in one or both ears. The fluid may cause muffled sounds, and you may feel like your ears are full. Serous otitis media may be caused by an upper respiratory infection or allergies. It is most common in the fall and early spring.

You may not always experience symptoms with serous otitis media, which means that you may not ever know that you have it unless it is noticed during a doctor’s physical exam. However, sometimes there is enough fluid in the middle ear space that you will notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Hearing loss
  • Ear fullness
  • Child pulling at their ear
  • Child has a change in behavior

Serous otitis media usually will last around three months. If the fluid in the middle ear persists longer than three months, your doctor will usually want to treat the fluid more aggressively.1 Failure to correct prolonged fluid in the ear may result in:

  • School performance problems
  • Behavior problems
  • Hearing loss
  • Balance difficulties
  • Other disorders of the middle ear

Serous otitis media will usually resolve without any intervention. If the fluid behind the eardrum is not resolved within three to six months, it is generally best for your doctor to remove the fluid by surgically placing an ear tube.

Prior to placing the ear tubes, your doctor will also look in the back of your child’s throat to determine if the adenoids may be blocking the auditory tube. If the adenoids are enlarged, your doctor may recommend an adenoidectomy to prevent blockage of the auditory tube from causing further fluid collecting in the middle ear.

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