Middle ear infection

Overview

A middle ear infection is also known as otitis media. It’s caused by fluid trapped behind the eardrum, which causes the eardrum to bulge. An ear infection (acute otitis media) is most often a bacterial or viral infection that affects the middle ear, the air-filled space behind the eardrum that contains the tiny vibrating bones of the ear.

Symptoms

Children

Signs and symptoms common in children include:
  • Tugging or pulling at an ear
  • Ear pain, especially when lying down
  • Crying more than usual
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty hearing or responding to sounds
  • Acting more irritable than usual
  • Fever of 100 F (38 C) or higher
  • Loss of balance
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear
  • A headache
  • Loss of appetite

Adults

Common signs and symptoms in adults include:
  • Ear pain
  • Diminished hearing
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear

When to see a doctor

Signs and symptoms of an ear infection can point to a number of situation. It’s significant to get a perfect diagnosis and prompt treatment. Call your child’s doctor if:

  • Symptoms last for more than a day
  • Ear pain is severe
  • Symptoms are present in a child less than 6 months of age
  • You observe an ejection of fluid, pus or bloody discharge from the ear
  • Your infant or child is irritable or sleepless after a cold or other upper respiratory infection
  • An adult with ear pain or discharge should see a doctor as soon as possible.