Approximately two-thirds of children get at least one middle-ear infection (otitis media) by age 3, and one-third of these children will experience at least three episodes. The earlier a child gets their first ear infection, the more susceptible they are to recurrent episodes. Recurring ear infections can play a large role on a child's speech and language development.
Although many children show signs of ear infection with a fever, others are "silent" and may have fluid build up or inner ear pressure without the typical signs of an ear infection. In a recent ASHA blog post, I helped other clinicians see the hidden signs of ear infection - learn how you can identify possible ear infections in your children with these helpful hints below.
- Ear tugging: I find this to be one of the most common sign of a “silent” ear infection. Many times, I notice children swat, pull or tug at their ears. Children will also place toys up by their ear.
- Sleepless nights: If you notice your child’s sleep schedule is off, and/or you notice an increase in crying, this could also signal an ear infection.
- Bedtime blues: If you note your child gets upset when they lie down, this might mean they feel pressure or fluid build-up within the middle ear and Eustachian tube.
- Tummy troubles: Vomiting, diarrhea or diminished appetite may point toward ear infection.
- “Huh? What?”: If your child repeatedly asks “huh?” or “what?”, ignores you, or does not responds to sounds they typically attend to, your child could have hearing loss due to an ear infection.
- Drainage: If you see fluid or pus exiting the ear canal, your child might have a perforated eardrum. In this case, the pressure build-up was so great that it burst through the eardrum.
- Decreased clarity: For children with recurring ear infections, you often notice more “mumbled” speech during an ear infection episode. Their speech intelligibility often decreases during episodes.