Conditions We Treat: Mastoiditis

Ear health is an important part of overall wellness. So when it comes to treating ear disorders, community members trust ENT, Sinus & Hearing Care Center. Learn about mastoiditis and how we can help.


What Is Mastoiditis?

Mastoiditis is an inflammation or infection of the mastoid bone, which is a portion of the temporal bone. Typically, a complication of acute otitis media (middle ear infection), mastoiditis may be a mild infection or can develop into life-threatening complications. Children have higher rates of ear infection and thus are more likely to develop mastoiditis, but the condition can occur at any age.


What Causes Mastoiditis?

Mastoiditis usually results when inflammation of a middle ear infection extends into the mastoid air cells. A child with mastoiditis usually has had a recent or recurring middle ear infection(s). Antibiotics for ear infections reduce the risk of mastoiditis.

Illustration of two tiny doctors pointing at a giant picture of mastoiditis on a giant clipboard

What Are the Symptoms of Mastoiditis?

Symptoms can differ between children and adults. Some of the most common symptoms for children include:

  • Pain behind the ear
  • Recent ear infection
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Redness or swelling of the tissue behind the ear
  • Drainage from an ear infection

Common symptoms in adults:

  • Difficulty hearing
  • Pain in the ear
  • Drainage from the ear

Because symptoms of mastoiditis may resemble other medical conditions or problems, it’s important to consult a physician for diagnosis.


What Are the Effects of Mastoiditis?

If infection continues to spread even after application of antibiotics, the following complications may occur:

  • Meningitis, an infection of the outside of the brain
  • Brain abscess, a pocket of pus and infection that may develop in the brain

Early and proper treatment of mastoiditis is necessary to prevent the development of these life-threatening complications.


How Is Mastoiditis Diagnosed?

We start with a complete medical history and physical examination. We then inspect the outer ear and eardrum using an otoscope, a lighted instrument. A pneumatic otoscope blows a puff of air into the ear to test eardrum movement.

Another test we might use is tympanometry, which can determine how the middle ear is functioning. Tympanometry does not tell whether the patient is hearing  but helps to detect changes in pressure in the middle ear.

We may also order the following tests to help confirm the diagnosis:

  • Blood work
  • X-rays of the head
  • Culture from the infected ear


How Is Mastoiditis Treated?

Specific treatment for mastoiditis will be determined based on a variety of factors such as :

  • The person’s age — especially if a child
  • Overall health and medical history
  • Extent of the disease
  • Tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition

Treatment usually requires hospitalization and a complete evaluation by an otolaryngologist, a physician specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders. In most cases, treatment will comprise antibiotics given through intravenously through a catheter.

In some cases, a surgical procedure called a myringotomy may be needed to release fluid from the middle ear or mastoid bone. The surgery involves making a small opening in the eardrum to drain the fluid and relieve the pressure from the middle ear.

For some pediatric patients, the surgery may also include a tympanostomy, a procedure in which a small tube is placed in the opening of the eardrum to ventilate the middle ear and prevent accumulation of fluid. Hearing returns after the fluid is drained. The tube usually falls out on its own after six to 12 months.

If you or a loved one has potential symptoms of mastoiditis, a medical consultation is the first step to getting you back to optimal health. So don’t wait. Contact our expert team at ENT, Sinus & Hearing Care Center for a diagnostic evaluation today.

Ready to Start Your Journey to Better Hearing?

Contact our hearing professionals today to begin.

Request an Appointment