Home • Causes of Childhood Ear Infections | A Gallery Of Parental Concerns

Causes of Childhood Ear Infections | A Gallery Of Parental Concerns


Critical Ear Infections Must Not Go Undetected

Childhood Infections Sometimes Common 

By definition, otitis media is a disease of the ears. if not treated, chronic ear infections have potential serious consequences such as temporary or permanent hearing loss. Fluid accumulates in the middle ear, pressure develops in the middle ear, and pain occurs in the middle ear.


Child suffering from painful otitis media and Impetigo.

Quite naturally then, doctors should directly treat the ears by whatever means possible. Or should they? One great weakness in modern medical practice is failure to view the patient as a whole.

When a problem arises in one area of the body, this is often the only area that receives attention. This is why antibiotics and surgery are used with such great frequency.

What happens if we ask the question, “What has occurred to render the child’s defenses unable to cope with a viral or bacterial insult?” In epidemics of strep throat, up to 60 percent of people are considered “carriers.” That is, they have positive strep cultures, but do not get sick. If one test healthy children in an elementary school classroom, he might discover that up to 40 percent of them culture positive for mycoplasma in their lungs.

Yet, these children are not sick. In studies of stress and infection, those under high stress are much more likely to become sick than those under low stress,  even though both may culture positive for bacteria such as strep. What is unique about the individuals who remain well?

I’m convinced the differences lies lies in immune defenses or host defenses. in 1994, there were over one thousand written research papers reviewed entitled; ‘Beyond Antibiotics.’  It became clear that the immune system could be positively or negatively influenced by at least six factors:

  • Diet
  • Nutrition
  • Lifestyle
  • Environment
  • Neuromusculoskeletal factors
  • Psychological factors

Imbalance in one or more areas might tip the scales in favor of the bacteria or virus. Maintaining balance in these areas often allows one to remain well despite exposure to bacteria or viruses. The principles set forth Beyond Antibiotics have now been used successfully by hundreds of thousands of patients of all ages around the world.

The growing consensus is that by improving host defenses one can reduce the rate of infection and reduce reliance on antibiotic drugs. Can the same principles be applied to childhood otitis media? Can the same principles be applied to prevention as well as treatment?

It has been determined that, through overwhelmingly positive feedback, the suffering of middle ear problems can be reduced through improved overall health and vitality.

Otitis media is an inflammation of the middle ear. All the events that occur in the middle ear – swelling, pain, infection, complications – are important and must be addressed. However, these events may only be the sequel to events that occur elsewhere in the body.


Baby resting after treatment of middle ear infection and antibiotics.

Killing bacteria may, at times, be necessary. But as you read this information, keep in mind that optimizing immune function is highly desirable regardless of age or condition. The cause of otitis media is not fully understood. What probably occurs is a multiplicity of events that interact to take advantage of lowered immune function, underdeveloped eustachian tube muscles, respiratory congestion, excessive mucus production, nutritional inadequacy, or any number of other factors.

Now, let me present a synthesis of the major contributing factors in the middle ear inflammation. In each case, prevention and treatment solutions are available that take advantage of our understanding of the causes presented here.

The four main causes of ‘otitis media’ (which contributes to hearing loss) are:

  • Allergy and Environmental Sensitivity.
  • Infection.
  • Mechanical Obstruction.
  • Nutrient Insufficiency.

Allergy and Environmental Sensitivity

Allergy is called the great masquerader because it can contribute to and mimic, many illnesses with which we don’t usually associate allergy. From recurrent colds to bronchitis, bed wetting to headaches, enlarged tonsils to diarrhea, allergy can play a significant role.

To children with recurrent middle ear infection, allergy is indeed the “great masquerader.”


Girl with impaired hearing gets medical attention for allergies.

Not all children with allergies develop middle ear problems, and not all children with middle ear problems have them because of allergies. But in children whose earaches are due to allergy, neglecting to treat the allergy (or the underlying factors that lead to the development of allergies) often results in recurrent infections.

Evidence demonstrating the role of allergy in middle ear problems has been steadily accumulating over the past four decades. A study  of 540 children by W. Leonard Draper, M.D., showed that secretory otitis media was more than twice as frequent in allergic children than in non-allergic children.

Dr. Draper also noted, in a study of 100 allergic children, that approximately 50 percent had fluid in the ears. Poor eustachian tube function – believed to be one of the prime factors leading to the development of middle ear infection – has been found to occur in almost one-third of allergic children.


Under certain conditions, bacteria present in the upper respiratory tract find their way up the eustachian tube into the middle ear. Once in the middle ear chamber, they contribute to the damaging events with which we associate infection. When middle ear fluid is cultured for bacteria, the most common bacteria found are Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae. These are called pathogenic organisms, which refers to their ability to produce disease.

 Cases of otitis media in which S. pneumoniac is involved tend to occur with severe pain and fever, but more commonly affect both ears.

Mechanical Obstruction

Otitis media can when the eustachian tube is blocked, or obstructed, by physical or mechanical means. The most common factors associated with mechanical blockage of the eustachian tube are swollen tonsils or adenoids. It was this association that prompted the widespread use of tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy in the early days of treating ear infections.

The cause of swollen tonsils or adenoids is not fully understood, but many doctors believe they can be caused or aggravated by allergies. Thus, allergies can lead to the development of one form of mechanical obstruction.

There is another form of mechanical obstruction that further contributes to the development of middle ear problems (and quite possibly the tonsilar and adenoid swelling in some children) called biomechanical obstruction.

Biomechanical obstruction refers to blockage that is due to problems involving the structural components surrounding the ear and eustachian tube.

Nutrient Insufficiency

Over the past two decades, our understanding of nutrition has expanded rapidly. For instance, we know that a child’s intake of dietary fats can either enhance or impair immune function. Intake of the wrong types of fats not only predisposes a child to developing recurrent infections, but to inflammatory conditions as well.

Deficiency of certain trace elements and vitamins causes a child’s metabolic machinery to go awry, even if essential fats are taken in proper proportion. If all is well, regarding the intake of vitamins, minerals, and fats, there are still a host of dietary factors that can upset the balance.

These are important considerations in childhood ear infections. Understanding them can allow you to avoid some things that put your child at risk to ear infections, and to things that will optimize your child’s resistance to disease in general.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it with others on social media .

Back to top

Author:Ronald Kennedy

Ron attended the Art institute of Chicago in 1980 and Harold Washington College in 1997. He graduated from Malcolm X College in May, 2000 majoring in 'Hearing Loss in America' and 'Children with Hearing Disabilities Around the World' (Ron has another interesting website, https://lovefolks.com regarding Love, Dating & Relationship). A Graduate of Malcolm X College in 2000 with an associate's degree in applied science, Ron also worked with the 'Chicago Area Autopsy Service' which is affiliated with the Medical Examiners Office, near downtown Chicago. The service covered all the local and suburban hospitals when reports of a death is called in.

8 responses to “Causes of Childhood Ear Infections | A Gallery Of Parental Concerns”

  • Jim January 21, 2017 at 3:26 pm Reply 

    I appreciate your article. I believe ear infections in children are a very common and serious problem. Especially chronic infections. It is very interesting how some people can be so much more susceptible to various infections than others are. The same of course holds true with the common cold. I personally have been very fortunate in not having a cold for over two years. And I live in a small town where everyone is usually in close contact with one another, and prone to picking up infections from others. So I was very interested in your suggestions about how other very foundational health issues could be contributing causes to these infections.

    I’ll be visiting your site again. Thanks for your insightful article.

    • Ronald Kennedy January 22, 2017 at 10:52 pm Reply 

      Thanks Jim for commenting. Good overall health among children is so important. Regardless, if it’s the health of a child’s hearing or some other bodily issue, parents should always be aware and ready to jump into action. Everyone’s level of resistance to bodily infections are different. Jim, let me know what vitamin’s you’re taking for not to have a cold in two years.lol. But really, I’m like you as well. (I can’t remember that last time I was out of it, with a cold). In your town, I believe the folks there really do make a conscious to stay in good health.

      Thank you again Jim, for stopping by. Please share my site with others and let me know if you have any other questions.

  • George January 21, 2017 at 8:00 pm Reply 

    Your home page was really informative and kept me moving down the page. I wanted to find all about the sign language teaching and there it was when i reached the bottom.

    By the time I clicked on the green button “I think my baby is deaf” I felt better informed to learn more.

    The side bar is full of interesting things which makes me want to return to this site again to find out more.

    Regards George

    • Ronald Kennedy January 23, 2017 at 1:33 am Reply 

      Thanks George for checking in and giving your comment. I’m glad nothing was too difficult in regards to navigating through my site and finding what you’re looking for. You can also join my free mailing list. Glad to have you. Please give me a ‘like’ on Facebook and share this page with others.

  • Hunter January 23, 2017 at 9:28 pm Reply 

    This is a fantastic article and a very informative one at that. I can’t speak personally on having ear infections as a child but I know that my cousin had them in his younger days and often resulted from the swimming pool. My 1 year old niece also has them quite often and I can tell you that I just wish I could take the pain away from her every time she gets one. I am definitely going to recommend this article and site to my sister who is the mother of my baby niece. Thanks again

    • Ronald Kennedy January 24, 2017 at 3:23 am Reply 

      Thank you hunter for you comments. Ear infection among children, or for anyone for that mater, is a rough and painful thing. Depending on the severity of the infection among children, it can lead to partial hearing loss. This is why parents should take their child in for the infection to be treated, before things get worse. I’m glad I never had serious issues as painful infections. Your sister should get together with her healthcare professional, to find out why your niece is constantly experiencing this. Let me know how it goes.

      Thank you Hunter for checking in. Please give me a ‘like’ and share by clicking my Facebook button. Thanks.

  • Trina January 25, 2017 at 4:16 pm Reply 

    This article is very helpful – particularly for new parents. I wish I had had this concise of a description of the causes of childhood ear infections when my children were small. Thank you for taking the time to put it together so well. I will be sharing it with my grown children – for the benefit of my grandchildren.

    • Ronald Kennedy January 25, 2017 at 7:11 pm Reply 

      Thank you Trina for commenting. Ear infections and other childhood diseases is something all parents should be educated on. With a lot of first time mom’s on the horizon and a lot of crap going on in our world today and in our environment, a parent can never be too careful. I try to keep it real and provide as much helpful information as I could. Here’s something that I recommend that you can share with your children, which I know will benefit your grandchildren dearly. Check it out:

      Again Trina, thank you for checking in and let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*