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Hearing management

Updated 13 December 2017

Ear infections often missed in infants

Irritability, fever and pulling at ears are possible signs of ear infections in babies, and should be treated promptly.

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Although most babies will have at least one ear infection before they reach the age of 1, these infections can be hard for parents to recognise.

Could lead to other problems

Identifying and treating ear infections in babies is important because they can lead to other problems, according to Dr. Andrew Hotaling, a paediatric otolaryngologist at Loyola University Health System in Chicago.

"Hearing disorders can lead to impediments in speech development and other growth milestones," Hotaling said in a Loyola news release.

Read: What is hearing loss?

"The ear infections are usually located in the middle ear."

Signs of an ear infection in babies include fever, irritability, poor sleep, and pulling or tugging at ears.

Antibiotics in extreme cases

"Antibiotics should only be prescribed if the ear infection cannot be cleared without them," Hotaling said.

"Incorrectly administering antibiotics can cause further harm."

Read: Treating hearing loss

Paediatric versions of anti-inflammatory acetaminophen or ibuprofen can provide relief, but check with your paediatrician about the right dosing information, Hotaling said.

A non-drug option is to apply heat to the outer ear, using a warm (not hot) wash cloth compress or brief use of a warm (not hot) heating pad or water bottle, he said.

Ear tubes may be necessary

"If your baby gets three ear infections in six months or four in one year, it may be time to consider ear tubes," Hotaling said.

The tubes, which have to be implanted during a surgical procedure, provide ventilation and drainage that helps prevent fluid build-up in the ears. Although anaesthesia is required, the whole procedure takes about 15 minutes, according to Hotaling.

Read: Causes of hearing loss

The tubes usually stay in place for six months to a year, and generally fall out on their own, he said.

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Image: Baby girl with earache from Shutterstock

 

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Hearing Expert

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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