Fluid in the ear

If your ear drainage tubes aren't working properly, you may get a build-up of fluid trapped behind the eardrum. This condition, also called otitis media, is one of the most common causes of hearing loss in children.

It can be caused by:

  • Allergies
  • Congestion from cold and flu - even pregnancy
  • Enlarged sinuses and nasal polyps or other growths that block the auditory tube
  • Rapid changes in air pressure - from flying or scuba diving

Signs of fluid in the ear:

  • Ear pain
  • Increasing ear pain when changing altitude, and being unable to "pop" the ears
  • Tinnitus (a ringing in the ears)
  • Hearing loss or the sensation that sounds are muffled
  • A feeling of fullness in the ears
  • Behaviour problems in children
  • Poor school performance related to hearing loss

You should see your GP if the pain you experience is severe or your symptoms are persistent. You may need a course of antibiotics or, if you're suffering for many months, surgery may be needed, where small tubes (called grommets) are used to help the fluid drain.

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