Yorkshire mum feels parents need more information on ear infections

Published: Tue Jan 20 2009

Eliza, now 2 ½ years old, had her first experience of a middle ear infection on her 1st birthday in April 2007. Eliza had a cold and during her birthday party seemed unsettled as all the guests gathered for a group photo. Rather than having fun, Eliza ended up being given Calpol and put to bed. Later that day, when Eliza woke up, her parents discovered that her ears were discharging fluid. They suspected her eardrums had burst and so took her to an out of hours doctor. With the perforations confirmed, antibiotics were prescribed and the doctor advised Eliza’s mum, Sarah, to keep the outer part of the ears clean.

After this initial ear infection, Sarah recalls how it marked the beginning of a very difficult year for Eliza and the family; in May 2007, when Eliza’s parents had taken her swimming, she developed a recurrent ear infection, particularly affecting one ear.

Sarah says: "From this point on, Eliza seemed to have a smelly discharge from her ear on a weekly basis. We had numerous trips to the doctor’s and this resulted in eight courses of antibiotics in a nine month period! Several GPs said that middle ear infections are quite normal and there was no need to refer to a specialist. However, I was concerned as, although my older daughter also experienced ear infections when she was younger, they were never as bad as Eliza’s.’

The severe pain Eliza experienced with the infections would cause her to hold her head and rock back and forth. Sarah could sense her daughter’s frustration at not being able to verbalise her pain, which sometimes resulted in tantrums. Although unpleasant, Sarah could tell that each time Eliza’s ear began to discharge again, the pain would improve and Eliza’s hearing would also seem better.

After nine months with no sign of an end to the symptoms, and with the pain of the infections affecting her sleep, Eliza was eventually referred to a specialist. At the appointment which took place in February 2008 it was revealed from swab tests on her ear that a virulent infection had damaged the eardrum in the worse affected ear, creating a large hole.

The specialist said that it was likely bacteria had been picked up at the swimming pool when water from the pool had got into the middle ear which may not have fully healed from the perforation. This infection was resistant to the antibiotics that had been given, and as such the eardrum never had the chance to repair itself.

When the specialist prescribed antibiotic ear drops, Sarah says that within a week the infection had cleared up. The perforation has now completely healed in Eliza’s better ear, whilst in the other it may be two years before it is fully healed. Currently, Eliza is thought to have a little hearing loss, whereby she may not always hear someone speak to her if they are behind her, or if they are talking against a background of sound. This is likely to improve as the eardrum heals, and Eliza is now much better generally and making good progress at nursery school.

Despite this, Sarah feels that ear infections are not always taken seriously enough and can be very damaging. She thinks it is important for parents to have more information about ear infections and to be aware of the importance of keeping water out of the ear, following perforation until it is fully repaired.

Deafness Research UK is the country's only charity dedicated to finding new cures, treatments and technologies for the deaf, hard of hearing and other hearing impaired people including tinnitus sufferers. For information on research into deafness and other hearing conditions, log on to the website, www.deafnessresearch.org.uk

Notes to editors
Parents worried about children’s ear infections and not sure where to turn can now get up-to-date advice and guidance from leading national charity Deafness Research UK, who has just published its new leaflet Ear infections and glue ear in children.

Around 200,0001 children suffer from repeated ear infections or glue ear each year in the UK. Whilst the majority of ear infections clear up naturally, there is a danger that potentially more serious cases are being overlooked and, whilst rare, the bacteria that cause ear infections can lead to complications such as pneumonia and meningitis.

Where the conditions cause hearing loss because the middle ear becomes filled with fluid, younger children in particular can have problems with language development and speech.

The leaflet is full of practical tips and guidance and contains the latest medical thinking on these conditions, describing the range of possible symptoms, current treatments and ways in which parents can support their child and prevent further problems. Historically, incidences of children’s ear infections in the UK reach a peak between January and March approximately, which is why Deafness Research UK is publishing its leaflet now.

With good knowledge, parents can do much to help their child and so Deafness Research UK’s new leaflet is being circulated to 6,000 GP surgeries in January, and can also be obtained directly from Deafness Research UK, telephone 0808 808 2222 or email info@deafnessresearch.org.uk

About Deafness Research UK
• Deafness Research UK is the country’s only charity dedicated to finding new cures, treatments and technologies for deaf, hard of hearing and other hearing impaired people.
• The charity supports high quality medical research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all forms of hearing impairment including tinnitus.
• The Deafness Research UK Information Service provides free information and advice based on the latest scientific evidence and informed by leading experts. The Information Service can be contacted on Freephone 0808 808 2222
• For more information on research into deafness, tinnitus and other hearing conditions, log on to the website at www.deafnessresearch.org.uk where you can access a wide range of information. Alternatively you can e-mail Deafness Research UK at info@deafnessresearch.org.uk
• One in seven people in the UK – almost nine million people - suffer hearing loss.
• Deafness Research UK was founded in 1985 by Lord (Jack) and Lady Ashley of Stoke.
• In January 2008, Action for Tinnitus Research (ATR) was linked with Deafness Research UK under a uniting direction order under section 96(6) of the Charities Act 1993.

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REF: DRUK105 –Eliza Butter ear problems
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