Sensory Receptor Case Study 1*


Auditory Disorder


JoAnn Stevens brought her five month old son, Michael, to the pediatrician after he had a fussy night’s sleep, refused his bottle and had a temperature of 101°F.  The pediatrician inspected Michael’s ears and informed JoAnn that Michael had a middle ear infection. She asked JoAnn if Michael had been coughing a lot and if he recently had a cold or runny nose. She also asked if Michael was breast-fed or bottle-fed and if there was anyone in their household who smoked. JoAnn told the doctor that Michael’s nose had been draining quite a bit lately, that he was bottle-fed, and that neither she nor her husband smoked. The doctor wrote a prescription for antibiotics and instructed JoAnn to give Michael a non-prescription childrens’ pain medication. An appointment was made for a recheck in two weeks.

A middle ear infection, or otitis media, can affect anyone, but is most common in young children, with 75% of children experiencing at least one episode by their third birthday. Children are more likely to suffer from otitis media than adults because their immune systems are immature, and their auditory tubes are shorter and straighter than those of adults.

Symptoms in young children include severe earache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Rupturing of the tympanic membrane, or eardrum, can also occur but is uncommon. If the condition is very persistent, generally seen as lasting for three months, an operation called a myringotomy can be performed. This operation involves the insertion of a ventilation tube in the tympanic membrane of an infected ear.




1.             Describe the following middle ear structures, explain their functions, and explain how those functions may be impeded by otitis media.

                                            i.     Tympanic membrane

                                             ii.     Auditory ossicles

                                               iii.     Auditory tube


2.             Explain the cause and progression of a middle ear infection.

3.             How does a ventilation tube function in the treatment of otitis media?

4.             Why would bottle-feeding contribute to the development of otitis media?

5.             How might this infection impede Michael’s ability to learn to walk?


*adapted from McGraw Hill Online Learning Center, Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology,3rd ed.Seely/Stephens/Tate