Ear Infections

A middle ear infection (otitis media) is caused by a bacterial or viral infection, often following another illness, such as a cold. It becomes a recurring problem for many children, year after year, and may put the child at risk of permanent hearing damage with associated speech and developmental problems.

Symptoms of middle ear infection include pain, fever, and irritability. The inside of the infected ear is inflamed, and there is a buildup of fluid behind the ear drum. Nearly half of all children have at least one middle ear infection before one year of age, and 2/3 by the age of three.

Boy in pain, holding ears

If your child has recurrent ear infections, chiropractic can help by restoring normal drainage of the lymphatic vessels.

Causes of Otitis Media in Children

Ear infections in children usually occur in one of two situations:

  1. When the lymph system in the neck is not draining properly
  2. When a certain muscle is not working correctly – the muscle that should prevent bacteria and viruses from entering the tubes in the back of the throat leading to the inner ear (the eustachian tubes)

In both situations, the underlying cause of a middle ear infection is mechanical, with one of the following scenarios:

  1. Reduced or even blocked drainage of the lymph vessels in the neck cause a build-up of fluid in the inner ear.
  2. The small muscle at the opening of the eustachian tube in the throat is not operating correctly and allows bacteria and viruses from the mouth to enter the inner ear.

Adults are Not as Susceptible

Although they can experience both of those conditions, adults usually do not end up with ear infections for two reasons:

  1. The shape and the length of adult eustacean tubes allows for easier drainage and make it more difficult for bacteria or viruses to enter.
  2. Adults generally spend more time upright than young children; this encourages better drainage.

Common Medical Treatments

Currently, medical doctors’ treatment of choice is oral antibiotics, which can be helpful in fighting bacterial infections but are not much more effective than the body’s own immune system, according to many research studies. The downside is that repeated doses of antibiotics can encourage the development of drug-resistant bacteria.

There is also a surgical procedure, in which an opening is made in the eardrum for placement of a small tube. This relieves some of the pressure in the ear and prevents fluid buildup. Then, after a few months, the body naturally pushes the tube out and the hole closes. Although this treatment is often effective, it does not address the underlying cause of the infection – the abnormal mechanical functioning of the lymphatics, muscles, and nerves.

What Can Chiropractic Do?

Instead of trying to kill off bacteria or interfering surgically, a more natural approach is to restore normal drainage of the ears and of the lymph glands of the neck. This is most effectively done through chiropractic.

If your child experiences recurrent ear infections, talk to your chiropractor. Doctors of chiropractic are licensed and trained to diagnose and treat patients of all ages and will use a gentler type of treatment for children. For most children, helping to restore the normal functioning of the affected tissues of the neck will usually reduce or completely eliminate middle ear infections, without the use of antibiotics or surgery.