Ear Infections

Can a child or adult who has Microtia get ear infections if they have Atresia?

Yes, they can. Did you know that a child with Microtia/Atresia can still get infections? Below is a letter from Dr. Joseph Roberson of the California Ear Institute explaining this:

Dear Ms Tumblin:
Children with Atresia can get ear infections. The bacteria or virus that starts an ear infection gains access to the middle ear through the Eustachion Tube – which those with Atresia have. With an ear infection, the pain we associate with the acute otitis media is caused by the eardrum bulging outward with the pressure from the infection and pus in the middle ear. Since there is no eardrum, children with Atresia may not feel pain with an infection (sometimes there is a mild ache but nowhere near the usual pain with AOM). A fever of unknown origin or dizziness or meningitis can all be sudden signs of an ongoing infection and should be considered by a physician treating a child with Atresia who exhibits one of these symptoms. A CT [CAT] scan is about the only way to tell if there is fluid in the middle ear. This still takes judgement as both soft tissue, cholesteatoma, and fluid all look the same on CT scan. If a child has a scan showing air in the middle ear space at one point (proving the ET is open) and then a repeat scan with no air with a clinical picture consistent with an ear infection, it is very likely that is what is going on. If a patient has a scan showing no air, the provider is unsure whether this is the way it has always been since birth or whether there was an air containing middle ear space that now has fluid or infection contained in it.
Phone 650.462-3149 (Jessica Dana)
Clinic 650.494-1000
Chief Executive

What other ear infections can a child or adult be faced with when having an Atretic ear?

Most-likely, a child with an Atretic ear will have just as many or just as few ear infections than a child with a non-Atretic “in tact” ear will. However, some may seem to be more prone to ear infections. Below are some things to watch for and to think about:

Tubes in the ear…

  1. As an adult or a child, if you appear to be experiencing pain and pressure in your ear, visit with your ENT. It is possible that you have excess fluid build up in your ear. In this case, you may want to consider the option for having a tube put in. The tube will gradually work its way out as the ear hears. This may have to be done often, but it will relieve the pressure build up in your ear from the fluid.


  1. It is possible that if your child or as an adult often become congested, that you may need to have your tonsils and adenoids removed. It is best to consult with your ENT to see if this would be the best solution to helping you breath better and become less congested. Both a tonsillectomy and an adenoidectomy are routine procedures and can be completed easily within 20 to 30 minutes.

Pressure in the ear…

  1. It is possible that also, due to fluid in the ear, you may be experiencing some pressure and pain feelings in your ear. Consult with your ENT to see what may be the underlying issue causing the pressure and to also see what could be done to alleviate it. Pressure in the ear can be brought on by flying, diving, and even talking on the phone. There is something called the “Ear Popper” which may help you relieve the pressure. Ask your ENT about the “Ear Popper” or visit http://www.earpopper.com/earpopper/testimonials.htm for more information. Certain ear plugs such as “Ear Plane” ear plugs can also help relieve pressure in the ear. For more information on “Ear Plane” ear plugs, please visit http://www.amazon.com/EarPlane-Pressure-Regulating-Plugs-Adult/dp/B00023DIFO


  1. Sometimes, your child or as an adult, you may be experiencing pain in your ear, but you have no leakage or pressure. You may have been treated for an ear infection and nothing helped. Your hearing may suddenly feel like it is decreasing a bit. Consult with your ENT to rule out what is called a cholesteatoma. Only a CAT Scan can rule out a cholesteatoma because an ENT has to be able to see deep in side of the ear to see hat may be causing the problem. Cholasteatomas are excess growths of skin that can become a tumor (benign or non cancerous)growing from the inside of the ear to the middle ear. They can be dangerous and very painful to anyone who has one. They can destroy hearing with symptoms of pus or an unpleasant smelling substance, oozing fluid or recurring discharge coming from the ear. However, they can be removed. Although they may grow back they can be removed again and hopefully permanently.

    The below is a link that shows images and provides information on cholasteatomas:

The below image is of a cholesteatoma:

Leakage from a Microtia Ear that does not have an ear canal (Atresia)…

  1. It is possible that from time to time a Microtia ear that does not have an ear canal (Atresia) may leak or ooze. One may ask, how is this possible if there is no canal present where anything fluid can leak from? Well, this has been known to happen. If you have a white cottage cheese ooze leaking from your Microtia/Atresia ear, it is possible that you have an ear infection in that ear. Even though you can not see into the ear, an infection may still be present. The white cottage cheese ooze may often be accompanied by a bad odor. Consult with your ENT to verify if you do have an ear infection and ask how it can be treated.

Microtia ear just feeling pain in general…

  1. It is common for someone with Microtia to say their ear hurts. Some describe their outer ear hurting as an ache or that the ear just feels sore. A Microtia ear may hurt when sleeping or lying on it and may even tend to get a little colder at times during colder temperature. This makes sense because the ear is not fully developed like the other non-Microtic ear (if unilateral Microtia Atresia) and isn’t flat. Also, a Microtia ear doesn’t nearly have the vascular supply that a fully developed ear has having more blood flow within it keeping it warmer.

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