Dr Kelvin Kong helps us to understand what to do and how to look after our ears for Hearing Awareness Week.
Dr Kelvin Kong

26 Aug 2016 - 6:21 PM  UPDATED 13 Sep 2016 - 6:37 PM

An article I wrote earlier this week for IndigenousX helped people to understand a little of Otitis Media (and I say a little as I am still learning), so now its time to figure out how and what to do to look after our ears.

I am often asked, when can we get grommets or when do we need to have surgery? I guess being a surgeon; this is a reasonable question to ask me. It is somewhat surprising to many patients and friends, when my response is that you don’t always need surgery. Otitis media is very common and is almost synonymous with growing. Nearly every child has had Otitis Media by the time they are 18 months old. Fluid in the ear does not always cause problems. Pain in the ear is often due to the fluid bulging or stretching the eardrum. Kids often do not have the ability to localize pain and as such may be misdiagnosed for other causes of fever and pain. Diagnosis can be challenging due to this as well as very small ear canals being difficult to see the ear drum.

Take home message:

Any concerns see you local health worker and or local doctor.

What can you do to help reduce or improve symptoms:

  • Breast feeding your baby is a great way to reduce Otitis Media
  • Ensure immunisations are up to date
  • Encourage nose blowing (no sniffing on back of hand!)
  • Avoid cigarette smoke, passive smoking can be devastating for OME
  • Take any medication prescribed (and full dose, avoid stopping script early)
  • Look out for language and developmental milestones (compare to others)

The main reasons to intervene include hearing loss, complications of infections, repeated infections or speech delay. The details of which are probably best described in literature elsewhere. I am mindful of keeping to a practical guideline for parents and community.

The main message is to ensure your child gets access to the local Community Controlled Health worker or Local doctor. Antibiotics and watchful waiting (pain relief) are the most common treatments prescribed. It should be mandatory to get a hearing test to ensure hearing is adequate. Further treatment can then be dictated by progress. This may include surgery.