Chronic Otitis Media/Mastoiditis

Chronic otitis media is a generic term used to describe long-term problems with the middle ear. A perforated eardrum that doesn’t heal or a middle ear infection that doesn’t improve or keeps returning both fall into this category. Children are more likely to develop chronic otitis media because they are more prone to ear infections.

Symptoms of Chronic Otitis Media

Many people with chronic otitis media due to a persistent perforated eardrum experience no symptoms or only mild hearing loss. You may also experience mild ear pain or discomfort.

In some cases, symptoms indicate a serious condition. Symptoms that require immediate attention include:

  • Severe pain, dizziness and facial nerve injury (facial weakness)
  • Fever, headache or confusion
  • Swelling, tenderness, and redness, which indicate the infection may have spread to the mastoid bone (mastoiditis)


When chronic otitis media is the result of infection, it can spread to the mastoid bone, or the bone that sits behind the ear. This bone consists of air spaces that help drain the middle ear. When the mastoid cells become infected or inflamed,  mastoiditis develops. The infection can also spread outside the mastoid bone, causing serious health complications.

Symptoms of Mastoiditis include:

  • Fever, irritability, and lethargy
  • Swelling of the ear lobe
  • Redness and/or tenderness behind the ear
  • Ear drainage
  • Bulging or dropping of the ear

Prevention and Treatment

The best way to prevent chronic otitis is to treat any ear infection promptly. Children who suffer from recurrent ear infections may need ear tubes to prevent further infections. In the event of a perforated eardrum, surgery (Tympanoplasty) may be required to repair the damage and prevent infection.  When a chronic infection spreads to the maostoid bone, surgery may be necessary.

At Northwest ENT Surgery Center, we carefully evaluate your condition before recommending surgery. In many cases, antibiotics can clear chronic otitis media including mastoiditis.

Don’t ignore that chronic ear problem. Call (678) 483-8833 to schedule an appointment with Northwest ENT Surgery Center today.