I had been seeing a 3 year old VERY verbal patient for several months as he would intermittently complain to his mother that his “ears were ON?”. He would tell her this off and on but could not explain what he meant by this statement. He did not say his ears hurt, he did not have a fever, he was sleeping well….but he seemed to be bothered enough to talk about it from time to time.
His mother brought him in to see me a few times and his exam was normal…but one day when she brought him in I noticed that he had clear fluid behind his ear drum(serous otitis). His eardrum was not inflamed and his exam was otherwise normal. When a child has fluid behind their ear drums it is not always a sign of infection, and in this case you watch and see if the fluid goes away on its own.
Well, he continued to talk to his mother about his “ears being ON”, and he even told his teachers a few times. Because he continued to talk about it ( over about 3 months) I sent him to see a pediatric ENT.
When the ENT saw him he also noted that he had some fluid behind one of his ear drums. Because he had had persistent fluid it was decided to place ear tubes….
And guess what? Once he had ears tubes placed he told me his “ears had turned off”!! I guess he sometimes felt funny or heard sounds differently and that was his way to express his ear issue - on and off! What took me so long?
Children continue to amaze me.