Chronic middle ear infection is an infection that lasts long. Unlike acute middle ear infection, that is sudden and often painful, but usually causes minor damage, chronic infection is slow, persistent, and can cause serious damage. Chronic middle ear infection is often the result of an untreated ear infection in childhood; this infection never disappear completely and some microbes (usually bacteria) always remain in the ear, or eventually disappear but leaves the site sensitive to any new penetration of the microbes in the system. The pus, that is constantly formed due to chronic infection, eventually causes the rupture on the eardrum and often damages or destroys bones in the middle ear; the final consequence of that can be hearing loss.
Cholesteatoma is another form of this disorder, and is potentially more dangerous because the infection can spread on the brain.
Occasionally, a greyish or yellowish pus is excreted from the ear. Hearing loss may occur, depending on how long the infection lasts. Today, these chronic infections are not so common as they once were. Only one out of 400 people are treated annually from this disorder.
If the infection is in the late stage, it can spread to the pneumatic cells in the mastoid, so an operation called mastoidectomy will be needed. Bones in the middle ear can be damaged, which leads to a certain degree of permanent hearing loss.
What to do?
Contact your doctor who will look at your ears with an otoscope and probably refer you to an X-ray of the head to determine if the infection has spread to the mastoid area.
Self-help: make sure your ear is dry and clean. Wipe the pus with a cotton ball.
Professional help: your doctor will clean your ear with a probe and probably prescribe tablets containing antibiotics and ear drops that contain both corticosteroids and antibiotics. This keeps the ear dry and prevents the creation of pus for three months; after that, then surgery is performed to improve hearing. However, if the pus is still created, an operation should be performed to clean the middle ear and remove all nearby infected sites.
The main operation, which requires hospital stay for up to two weeks, can be performed as soon as the infection is eradicated. This operation involves repairing the bones in the middle ear; they can be replaced by metal or plastic replacements if they can not be saved. Then, the damaged eardrum is restored with the tissue transplant, e.g. from the vein; the eardrum can not heal by itself because of the accumulation of scar tissue that is caused by frequent damages. In 70% of cases, damage can be eliminated and at least part of the hearing can be restored.