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Infants and toddlers get sick often. It happens, and it is generally a good thing that it does, as their little bodies cope and build immunity.  Having ear infections often results from fluid build-up in the middle ears (the name of this infection is “otitis media”). The middle ear is the little cavern just inside our heads that houses the little bones that transport sound to the hearing organ (cochlea) deeper inside the head. Keep in mind this is a very simplistic description of how things work, and that different types of infections affect different parts of the ear.

Person getting an ear checkup.
Ear infections can be more than just a irritating nuisance. To a young child, they can have permanent negative consequences.

A little tube connecting each middle ear to the roof of the mouth drains fluid so that it doesn’t build up and get infected (this tube also functions to equalize pressure in the middle ear). So why does it get infected in little kids so often? This is largely because of a difference in the anatomy of a young child’s head. In kids, the drainage tube is set more horizontally, making it tougher for gravity to help drain the fluid. As we grow, our head structure changes the orientation of the tube to be angled down and away from the middle ear, letting gravity do its work to drain the fluid.