Lend Me Your Ear

Ear infections, known as otitis media, affect people of all ages. The most common type is acute otitis media (AOM), a bacterial infection in the middle ear. This infection usually resolves naturally within a few weeks and does not require treatment. However, AOM can get worse, resulting in chronic or recurring infections. In severe cases, ear infection patients can suffer damage to the eardrum and hearing loss. Chronic ear infections often require medical treatment in the form of a myringotomy.

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What is myringotomy surgery?

Myringotomy is a surgical procedure used to drain fluid from the middle ear by creating a tiny hole in the eardrum. Depending on the degree of infection, the surgeon may also perform a tympanostomy. This step places an ear tube in the myringotomy incision. This ear tube helps equalize pressure and prevents infections from recurring. Myringotomy is necessary for repetitive or severe ear infections that do not respond to antibiotics alone, ear bleeding, and hearing loss. This procedure may also help address balance problems, speech delays, and ear barotrauma.

What happens after surgery?

After the myringotomy surgery, the ear may feel clogged, a typical side effect of the surgery. The patient’s hearing may improve in a few days, but full recovery may take about 4 weeks. If a tympanostomy was also performed, the ear tubes fall out naturally within 4-12 months. Caring for the ear after myringotomy is crucial for a smooth recovery. Here are 3 easy steps patients should consider.

1. Clean and dry

Dirt, bacteria from the hands, and moisture can cause another infection. Therefore, keeping the ear clean and dry is essential after surgery. Wash hands well before touching the area around the ears. Use a damp cloth to carefully wipe the outside of the ear to avoid any damage while cleaning. Keep water from entering the ear for at least 10 days after the surgery, then use earplugs when washing hair, showering, or swimming. After a bath or shower, dry the ears with a clean towel before applying any medication.

2. Take medications as instructed

Use all prescription medication as directed to help prevent infections during recovery. Ask a doctor or pharmacist for an alternative if a prescribed antibiotic does not work. More importantly, patients must finish the entire course of treatment, even if symptoms are gone, to prevent the recurrence of infection. The surgeon may prescribe ear drops to be used for 3 days after surgery to help the ear heal properly.

3. Monitor your recovery

Patients should schedule regular follow-ups to check progress and prevent any further complications. During these visits, the doctor will check the ear and remove any discharge from the ear canal. The doctor may also change the prescribed medicine if the symptoms do not improve after 3 days or if the ear still appears infected.

Clear the ear

Surgery can provide long-term relief from infections and other ear-related problems. However, a smooth recovery is essential to preventing future issues. Closely monitor the ear after the surgery. Notify a doctor immediately if there is excessive bleeding or drainage for more than 3 days. Look for other warning signs, such as high fever or severe ear pain. Focus on caring for the ear to enjoy a pain-free future.