Mastoiditis - A guide to Hearing Loss

This can occur as a result of an untreated or chronic middle ear infection. This infection spreads to the mastoid bone where it destroys healthy bone which distorts its appearance. If it’s left untreated then there is a real risk of it spreading to the brain where it can cause serious complications.

Symptoms of mastoiditis include pain, fever, headaches, earache and hearing loss.

This condition is more common in children than adults.

What is the mastoid bone?

This bone is located behind the skull and just upwards of the ear lobe.

If you reach behind your ear you can feel this as a bony protrusion behind your ear lobe.

This bone has a ‘sponge-like’ structure with air spaces: these air spaces are joined to the middle ear via an air filled cavity called the ‘mastoid antrum’.

The mastoid bone acts as a sort of ‘spare air supply’to enable the ear drum to function as normal but this connection has a downside in that it also allows infections from the middle ear to spread to the mastoid bone. In other words, its open ended structure makes it easy for any infection to easily pass through to the mastoid bone.

Causes of mastoiditis

It can occur as a result of acute otitis media or more usually, from a bacterial infection.

Symptoms of mastoiditis

These include pain and/or discomfort as a result of the infection; a sore, reddened swelling behind the ear; high temperature; discharge from the ear, earache and hearing loss. Plus there is a general feeling of being unwell.

Treatment for mastoiditis

This usually involves antibiotics which are given via an intravenous injection (IV) as this accesses the source of the infection much quicker. Oral medicine will follow this and this course of treatment must be followed through to the end.

Painkillers can also be taken as can paracetamol which will reduce a high temperature. Your GP will advise you about this. In a few cases surgery will be required which means the insertion of small drainage tubes into the ear drum to release this infection or to remove any damaged bone.

This can prove to be dangerous if left untreated with a risk of it reaching the brain where it can meningitis. Plus there is also the risk of long term hearing loss.

Mastoiditis is not a common condition and if it does occur is usually a result of a worsening middle ear infection such as otitis media.

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