PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Could chronic ear infections – the kind that need ear tubes – play a part in weight gain?

“It seems like there’s a relationship here, but we can’t say it’s causal,” Dr. Jeffrey Simons, an otolaryngologist at Children’s Hospital Pittsburgh.

The thought is a nerve that goes through the inner ear becomes chronically inflamed with repeated infections. This could affect your sense of taste.

A nerve comes off the brain stem, a branch splits off at the ear and goes down into the mouth. Because of this nerve, you can taste with the front two-thirds of the tongue.

A Korean study looked at whether weight, taste and ear infections were linked. Researchers measured body mass index and taste sensation in 42 kids with chronic ear infections and 42 without.

The ear infection group was heavier. These kids also had decreased taste, especially for sweet and salty, and needed more sweetness and saltiness to activate the taste buds.

Other experts believe it’s the other way around – obesity may play a part in ear infections due to more padding around the drainage tube in the ear, keeping fluid locked in there.

“I think there’s going to need to be more research to be done to determine the exact nature of that relationship,” says Dr. Simons.

Until more is known about this link, Dr. Simons doesn’t expect the rate of ear tube placement to go up just because of possible obesity. He says they will be reserved for cases where fluid is in the ear for months or leads to hearing loss and speech problems.

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Children’s Hospital
National Institutes Of Health: MedlinePlus

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