ENT Center of Austin - Doctor's Blog

Know What The Doctor Means - Ear Glossary

ENT Dictionary Terms


Here at the ENT Center of Austin, we believe that every patient should be armed with knowledge. What has been the case in the past is that the physician treating your ailments has taken a "I'm the doctor, trust me" attitude. That is so outdated. You are the one to take control of your health. We'll help with the latest medical support, but it's in your wheelhouse.

With that in mind, we present a glossary of terms you can upload to your noggin so we are all singing from the same hymn-book.

Technical To Human-Speak

Considering you or your child has an earache. We may use certain words to explain the condition. Here's a brief rundown of some things we may say to you after a diagnosis:

  • Acute otitis media - Basically this is a common ear infection. Otitis means swelling in the ear. Media refers to middle. When it's acute otitis media we're talking about an infection of the middle ear, behind the eardrum. When you hear this it means there's some kind of fluid trapped in the middle ear.
  • Adenoidectomy  – When we may recommend taking out the adenoids. They're also called pharyngeal tonsils.
  • Amoxicillin - It's a type of penicillin we'll usually try first. Not seeing any results, we'll move to plan B for a second shot at the ear infection.
  • Analgesia – Pretty easy. It's a fancy way of saying that the pain of the earache can be relieved by Over The Counter "OTC" medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Antibiotic resistance – Sometimes folks are immune to a particular antibiotic. That's why we always suggest that you don't take the stuff unless it really necessary. You can build-up a resistance with overuse.
  • Audiometer - This is a gizmo that measures hearing of certain frequencies measured by decibels. More about decibels in a moment.
  • Azithromyacin – An antibiotic we may prescribe for acute otitis media arising from a couple of things. Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Moraxella catarrhalis. It's sold in pharmacies by the name Zithromax.
  • Bacteria – About 70% of otitis media cases are caused by bacteria.
  • Chronic otitis media – This needs to be taken care of ASAP. It's when things go from acute to the danger zone. Could damage the middle ear and eardrum.


  • Decibel – Sounds funny, but it's actually one tenth of a bel. Hearing tests are measured in decibels.
  • First-line agent – Pretty much the first line of defense. It's usually an antibiotic called amoxicillin.
  • Myringotomy – This is an incision made into the ear drum.
  • Otitis media without effusion - Effusion is the key word here. That's fluid. There's no fluid causing the swelling? That what this term stands for.
  • Otitis media with effusion - See above. With effusion, fluids are present. Usually we won't prescribe antibiotics for this condition.
  • Otitis media with perforation - It's a tear in the eardrum from an infection. Generally it will fix itself in a couple of weeks.
  • Pneumatic otoscopy - Another test using a device that's capable of varying air pressure against the eardrum. It tells us one of two things: If the tympanic membrane moves during the test, your ears are normal. No movement? Could mean that the membrane is torn or there's a fluid build-up.
  • Recurrent otitis media – For those who get three infections in three months, four in six months, or six in 12 months, it tells us that further treatment is necessary to fix the problem.
  • Second line treatment – If the first type of antibiotics isn't fixed after 2-days, this is what we called plan B above.
  • Trimethoprim Sulfamethoxazole – For those allergic to amoxicillin, this is an alternative.
  • Tympanostomy tubes – Tiny, little tubes we'll stick in the patient's ear to drain the infected fluids.

There are many more things we may say outside the glossary above. Got a question? We'll bring the highfalutin language down to real words. As we said at the top, we want to stuff your brain's backpack with knowledge. It's your health. We're here to keep you in tip-top shape. Confusion is not part of the equation.

Image Source: flickr.com/photos/katerha/5217903505

Original Source: http://austinentmd.com

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