Home » Otitis Media (ear infection) Symptoms & Treatment

Otitis Media (ear infection) Symptoms & Treatment

Otitis media is an infection or inflammation caused by viral or bacterial infection inside the middle ear.

It can occur in response to cold, tympanic membrane perforation, sore throat, and respiratory infections. It causes dysfunction of the ear canal and changing viscosity of middle ear fluid.

What Are the Symptoms of Otitis Media (middle ear infection)?

Otitis media is the middle ear infection most common in infants and younger children.

Symptoms of Otitis Media

It may have some common symptoms like:

  • Sleepless and crying babies
  • Irritation and fussiness
  • Itching and pulling on the ears
  • Neck pain and headache
  • Feeling ear fullness
  • Pus & fluid drainage from the ear
  • High fever over 101°F
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Conductive hearing loss
  • Loss of appetite due to pain

What Are the Different Types Of Otitis Media?

Following are the three different types of otitis media

Types Of Otitis Media

1. Acute Otitis Media

The most common ear infection having a shorter life span is referred to as acute otitis media.

The fluid becomes trapped inside the ear and Eustachian tube causing pain, swelling, and redness.

The child feels uncomfortable with high fever and ear pain.

The Eustachian tube dysfunction is followed by negative middle ear pressure, which allows the bacteria and viruses in the

Naso-pharynx to move into the middle ear and cause inflammation.

Ear fluid discharge from the external ear canal may be present in Acute otitis media (AOM) is the acute tympanic

Membrane perforation/draining ventilation tube or bulging o of the tympanic membrane from a puff of air.

Moreover, through a pneumatic otoscope, a Puff of air is blown into the ear to check the eardrum’s movement.

2. Otitis Media with Effusion (OME)/ Serious otitis Media(SOM)

Fluid buildup from the mucous membrane is the condition of Otitis media with effusion (OME)/ Serious otitis Media (SOM).

Commonly known as ‘glue ear.’ Usually, the symptoms may not be visible or may include a feeling of fullness in the ear, affecting the child’s hearing.

3. Chronic Otitis Media with Effusion

The prolonged exposure of the ear towards the accumulation of fluid within the ear is known as chronic otitis media.

However, with no symptoms of pain or infection, it may affect badly hearing process.

Longer retention of the fluid in the middle ear makes the fluid more viscous.

Chronic tympanic membrane perforation and persistent drainage are said to be the inflammation of the external ear canal.

Causes of Otitis Media (middle ear infection)

The common cause of Otitis Media or infections in children is the irregularity found in the Eustachian Tube, a canal that links the throat and the middle ear.

The malfunctioning of the Eustachian tube prevents fluid drainage from the middle ear, causing a buildup of the viscous fluid behind the eardrum.

This fluid provides a moist environment for bacterial and viral growth, can be treated through antibiotic treatment or conjugate vaccine in children with ventilation tubes.

A negative middle ear pressure facilitates a high influx of bacteria and viruses into the middle ear giving rise to acute otitis media and otorrhea in children.

The colonized Bacteria to pathogens in the nasopharynx do not cause any harm until the virus attacks and initiates the inflammatory process.

The most common causes of infections in children may include:

  • Cold allergies
  • Flue or sore throat generates middle ear pressure
  • Enlarged adenoids or sinus infections.
  • Active Cigarette smoke / Passive Cigarette smoke
  • Infants drinking while laying-down

Where is the Middle Ear?

The middle ear starts from the eardrum, the tympanic membrane, to the lateral wall of the inner ear.

It is present within the temporal bone & the Middle ear fluids help in adjusting sound vibrations.

How is an Ear Infection Treated?

The onset of ear pain, having persistent symptoms can be cured by adopting First-line treatment.

  1. Moderate heat therapy to adjust middle ear pressure.
  2. Using OTC ear drops to relieve pain and adjust host factors.
  3. Special antibiotics for Children with tympanostomy tubes because there is a risk of acute otorrhea in children.
  4. By using Oral Antibiotic therapy or Topical antibiotics.
  5. Using effective pneumococcal vaccines like influenza vaccine and conjugate vaccine for infection in children as per the
  6. American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
  7. Surgery to insert ear tubes in the ear of a baby, myringotomy, is recommended for recurrent ear infections.

The standard or topical antibiotic treatment depends on the kind of otitis media and history of ear infections.

A specialist in child care must be consulted regarding treatment for infections and effusion in children.

Long Term Effects of Ear Infections

Frequent infection with a longer lifespan may and persistent symptoms cause some severe problems like:

  • Permanent or conductive hearing loss in case of an attack on the eardrum and other portions.
  • Severe or mild bulging of the eardrum
  • The infection spread to other parts of the body, like the head and neck.
  • Respiratory infections may arise in infants.
  • Delayed speech and language development.
  • Mastoiditis can occur due to repeated infection. It is an infection of the bones located behind the ear.
  • Learning Difficulties may arise as the child will be unable to listen and follow the instructions.It is known as an auditory processing deficit.
  • The associated skills linked with listening are badly affected. It may include difficulty in ready and dyslexia as well.
Can middle ear infections be prevented?


It is a common notion that prevention is better than cure. Therefore, specific measures can be adopted to avoid the middle ear infection and onset of ear pain.
1. Keep your hands neat and clean
2. Ensure clean ears by washing carefully
3. Be careful while using a cotton swab
4. Avoid cigarette smoke
5. Handle your allergies by avoiding the triggers
6. Avoid loud music and noise pollution
7. Avoid exposure to tobacco smoke
8. Get vaccinated like the influenza vaccine
9. Avoid group child care centers with a non-cozy environment

Why do children get many more ear infections than adults? Will my child always get an ear infection?


Young children are more prone to ear infections than adults because of Their Small-sized Eustachian tube and middle ear cavity.
The horizontal and short-sized Eustachian Tubes encourage the buildup of the fluid behind the eardrum.
Moreover, their immune system is not strong enough to deal with the bacterial and viral attacks in such situations.
Therefore, bacteria take the pathway of Eustachian tubes, causing the fluid to build up in the middle ear, spread infection, resulting in swollen ear or earache.
Usually, these bacteria come from the Tonsils and adenoids located at the top and back of the throat.
Bacteria get trapped there and cause the infection to move through the Eustachian tubes to the portions of the middle ear and damage the Middle ear cavity.
Therefore, primary care is necessary to avoid severe otalgia.
Moreover, low socioeconomic status may also make a child prone to infections due to an inadequate host immune system.


What are the harms of fluid buildup in your ears or repeated or ongoing ear infections?


An ear infection that continuously occurs may significantly lead to hearing loss. In case of permanent damage to the eardrum
Or other structures can result in permanent hearing loss.
Furthermore, frequent ear infections result in hearing loss and generate other problems like difficulty learning the skills, reading, and speaking


Do I need to cover my ears if I go outside with an ear infection?


In case of mild infections, you can go outside without any formality to cover the ears.
If someone feels an earache while going outside in a cold season, you should take some necessary measures.
It happens because the nerves in the ear canal are sensitive and unprotected. They can react in response to cold air and generate
A strong ear pain impulse upon interaction.
However, Internal ear pain can also result from the slow pace of blood circulation due to wind and cold or any genetic factor.


Can I swim if I have an ear infection?


Yes, it is perfectly fine to swim in an ear infection by adopting specific cautionary measures like wearing eyes
And ear covering goggles and ensuring that your eardrum is not ruptured and you are not suffering from Swimmer’s ear infection or otitis externa.
It would be best to dry your ears thoroughly to avoid any risk of bacterial or viral infection.
Therefore, swimming is fine if there is no chronic inflammation or drainage of fluid from the ear.


Are ear infections contagious?


Usually, ear infections are not contagious. However, some bacterial and viral infections due to internal malfunctioning can trigger ear infections.
The diseases caused by bacteria and viruses are highly contagious and can spread from one person to another, especially through child care centers.

When to Consult with the Doctor?

It is the best time to consult a doctor immediately the condition does not improve within three days.
A rise in Body temperature above 100.4oF indicates a severe problem. Ear infections can eventually lead to hearing loss.
Therefore, it is better to consult a doctor immediately If you experience the symptoms of an ear infection
Like ear pain, dizziness, vomiting, spinning sensation, fullness in the ear, nausea, ringing in the ear, body balancing, and walking problem, muffed hearing or hearing loss.
He may prescribe you oral antibiotic treatment or any other antibiotic of choice for the cure.

How is an Ear Infection Diagnosed?

A doctor uses an otoscope, a handheld device having a light and magnifying lens, to examine the ear.

A healthy eardrum will look pinkish-gray and translucent. In case of any infection, the eardrum may look inflamed, reddish, or swollen.

The doctor checks the medical & family history of the patient, genetic factors and asks for your symptoms to know the middle ear pressure situation.

Therefore, a watchful waiting of host immune and careful examination of Eustachian tube epithelium is compulsory during an assessment for tube candidacy.

Moreover, when air is pushed carefully against the eardrum, the reaction of the eardrum in response to air pressure helps in diagnosing the problem.

If it moves smoothly, you may not have the infection, at least not that serious.

However, if it moves hardly, it depicts something inside the Middle ear fluid putting pressure.

The systematic review of children with tympanostomy tubes, simple hearing tests.

And tympanometry tests may be carried out to find the problem under the Clinical practice guideline.

An average equivalent ear canal volume is examined with a flat tympanogram indicates middle ear effusion.

However, low equivalent ear canal volume depicts particular blockage by earwax.

Therefore, Children with tympanostomy tubes should be treated with special topical antibiotics instead of oral antibiotics.

Final Advice on Otitis Media

Middle ear inflammation and infection are the common types of ear problems.

A comprehensive review suggests that the risk factor that is most common in infants occurs due to Eustachian tube dysfunction.

These tubes in children are not much complicated and may get damaged under the influence of environmental factors, resulting in acute ear pain or infection in the auditory canal.

In case of a severe infection or recurrent ear infections, the doctors may recommend surgery under the clinical guideline and causal pathways.

Therefore, a child care specialist must be consulted regularly.

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