Ear problems can be incredibly painful for children. With 10 million new cases every year, ear infections (clinically called otitis media) are the most common illness affecting babies and young children and accounting for more than 35 percent of all visits to the pediatrician. Ear infections can be either bacterial or viral in origin, and frequently results from another illness such as a cold. For many children, it can become a chronic problem, requiring treatment year after year, and putting the child at risk of permanent hearing damage and associated speech and developmental problems.
Medical treatment for most cases of otitis media is with antibiotics, which can be effective if the culprit is bacterial (antibiotics, of course, do nothing to fight off viruses). But, according to many research studies, antibiotics are often not much more effective than the body’s own immune system. And repeated doses of antibiotics can lead to drug-resistant bacteria.
Frequent ear infections are also the second most common reason for surgery in children under 2 (with circumcision being the first). In severe cases, when fluids from an ear infection haven’t cleared from the ear after several months, and hearing is affected—specialists sometimes prescribe myringotomy and tympanostomy, more commonly known as “ear tubes.” During the surgical procedure, a small opening is made in the eardrum to place a tube inside. The tube relieves pressure in the ear and prevents repeated fluid buildup. In most cases, the membrane pushes the tube out after a couple of months and the hole in the eardrum closes. Although the treatment is effective, it has to be repeated in some 20 to 30 percent of cases. And this kind of surgery requires general anesthesia, never a minor thing in a small child. If the infection persists even after tube placement and removal, children sometimes undergo adenoidectomy (surgical removal of the adenoids)—an option that is effective mostly through the first year after surgery.
Rather than putting their child through the trauma of surgery and the side effects of medications, more and more parents are beginning to look to chiropractors to complement their children’s health care. Chiropractic care involves diagnosing spinal misalignments and correcting them by gently adjusting the spine. Chiropractors attempt to get to the root cause of a health problem rather than just treat the symptoms. Misalignments of the spine (also called subluxations) can occur during childbirth, from tumbles or falls, or from any normal childhood activity. Misalignments left untreated can irritate the nerves and eventually disrupt the body’s ability to function properly. The purpose of a chiropractic adjustment is to help to restore the normal functioning of the nervous system so the body can heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics indicates that there is a strong correlation between chiropractic adjustments and the resolution of ear infections. 332 children with chronic ear infections participated in the study. Each child, ranging in age from 27 days to 5 years, was given a series of chiropractic adjustments. The results show that close to 80% of the children did not experience another ear infection within the six-month period following their initial visits. The six-month period included maintenance treatments every four to six weeks. Joan M. Fallon, D.C., the author of the study and the chiropractor who treated the children in the study, states that this pilot study can serve as a starting point from which the chiropractic profession can begin to examine its role in the treatment of children with chronic ear infections. According to Dr. Fallon, “Chiropractic mobilizes drainage of the ear in children, and if they can continue to drain without a buildup of fluid and subsequent infection, they build up their own antibodies and recover more quickly.”