Middle ear fluid
Fluid behind the tympanic membrane, or eardrum, is called a middle ear effusion. Fluid accumulates in the middle ear when the eustachian tube that connects the ears to the nose gets blocked by infection, inflammation, or sometimes even a mass. When fluid is behind the eardrum, it prevents the eardrum from moving and results in hearing loss. Other symptoms of fluid in the ears are a sense of blockage, feeling "under water", hearing your own voice echo in your ear, ringing or buzzing in the ear (tinnitus), and imbalance.
Middle ear fluid can persist for months after an ear infection and is one of the most common causes of hearing loss in children. This is especially true for children under 5 years of age. Most of the time, fluid clears on its own, but if the fluid remains in the middle ear for more than 3 months measures should be taken to remove the fluid. There are both medical and surgical approaches to clearing the fluid, and discussing your child's care with an ENT physician will help you decide which path to take.
It is unusual for an adult to develop a middle ear effusion, and a consultation with an ENT specialist is strongly encouraged in such cases. Infections, allergies, and sudden pressure changes from diving or flying are some of the more common causes of middle ear effusions in adults. Medications to improve eustachian tube function can often clear the effusion without a need for a procedure. If these medicines fail to work, then a myringotomy, or small incision in the eardrum, can be made and the fluid can be removed.
At The Voice Clinic, Dr. Osborn is happy to assess your ears and help determine if middle ear fluid is causing your symptoms. He and our audiologist can evaluate your hearing and decide on appropriate treatment to get you on the path to better hearing.