Origin of the fluid:
Middle ear compartment of the human ear is well known place for fluid buildup. In most instances the origin of the fluid is from mucus secretions of the lining mucosa. The middle ear does have a good drainage system by means of a Eustachian canal and in certain instances such as colds, sinusitis and in allergies, this passage could be blocked. Thus, the resulting fluid buildup with in the middle ear can result in conditions such as partial hearing lost, ear ache as well as ear fullness.
When it becomes a problem...
Although, in most instances the fluid that is collected will drain through the Eustachian canal once the underlying condition settle. But, if the condition persists or if there is a secondary infection, the fluid might persist as well as it can turn into pus. The condition known as otitis media gives rise to a similar scenario and will manifest as a bulging ear drum or as an ear discharge.
If the building up of ear fluid becomes troublesome and persistent, it may require external support in draining. This is more relevant to children as it can lead to hearing impairment, poor school performance and absenteeisms.
Decision to drain:
The decision to drain the ear fluid would not be the first choice in treating conditions that leads to such symptoms. The initial treatment process will make use of antibiotics, steroids, and other decongestants to relieve the symptoms as well as to cure the cause. But, the option to drain should be considered when all else fails or the problem recurs from time to time.
The procedure that is performed in draining the ear fluid is called 'myringotomy' and is performed under sedation. In fact, the procedure is said to be the leading event for which children are given general anesthesia in US.
Following sedation, a grommet shaped tube made out of plastic will be inserted through a tiny hole made in the tympanic membrane. The tube is also known as 'tympanostomy tube' and would allow the middle ear to be aerated with outside air and it will equalize the pressures between inside and the outside. Within few weeks the middle ear cavity will become dry and the draining fluid will stop. The tube is usually left alone and would spontaneously come out after about 5 years or before. In most instances the tympanic membrane will heal without any residual deficiencies.
Draining without 'myringotomy'
Apart from surgical intervention to draining the ear fluid, a chiropractic massage of the palate will also be useful in removing the collected fluid but its effectiveness may vary. Any suggestion is to apply warm compressions behind the ear to relieve from the fluid buildup, but has not been researched and proved its efficacy.