It's common for fluid to remain in the middle ear, but that means bacteria can get into it and cause a repeat ear infection. In about two-thirds of children this remaining fluid will clear in one month, and in 90 percent it will clear in three months. Your doctor will monitor the situation at subsequent visits to make sure your child does not get another infection in the meantime and that the fluid doesn't remain for more than 6 months.
That's because fluid in the middle ear for a prolonged period can result in a temporary hearing loss, which is especially problematic for young children who are learning how to talk. Although studies have shown that there's no long-term impact on a baby or toddler's language development, the hearing loss is a concern and may mean that your child requires ventilating, or tympanostomy, tubes. These small plastic or metal tubes are placed in the eardrums in a minor surgical procedure to help drain the fluid and keep it from collecting. A child's hearing returns to normal once the fluid drains.
After having tubes inserted, many children get significant relief from their ear infections. The tubes stay in place until they fall out on their own. Half of the children will have to get tubes put in again, but the other half will have already outgrown ear infections by this time.
Fortunately, the majority of children avoid serious consequences of ear infections, such as getting tubes. And although the ailment is troubling for both parents and kids, there's a lot that can be done to fight and treat ear troubles.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.