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What is an ear infection?


​​An ear infection is inflammation of the ear.  Most children have at least one ear infection by the time they are 3 years old, but adults can also get ear infections.

​​What causes ear infections?

Inflammation in the middle ear most often stars after you've had a sore throat, cold, or other upper respiratory problem.  The infection spreads to the middle ear and cause fluid buildup behind the eardrum.

​​​​​What are the symptoms of ear infection?

The most common symptoms of ear infections in adults are:

  •  ​Ear pain
  •  Feeling of fullness in the ear
  •  Fluid draining from the ear(s)
  •  Fever
  •  Hearing loss

​​These symptoms may look like other conditions or health problems; always consult your physician for a diagnosis. ​

​​How is an ear infection diagnosed?

Your physician will review your health history and do a physical exam; your outer ears and eardrums will also be checked using an otoscope.  The otoscope is a lighted tool that allows the physician to see inside the ear.  A pneumatic otoscope blows a puff of air into the ear to test eardrum movement.  Where there is fluid of infection​​ in the ear, movement is decreased. 

Your physician may also do a tympanometry, a test the directs air and sound to the ear.​

If you have ear infections often, your physician may suggest having a hearing test.​

​​How is an ear infection treated?

Your physician will figure out the best treatment based on:

  •  ​How old you are
  •  Your overall health and health history
  •  How sick you are
  •  How well you can handle specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  •  How long the condition is expected to last
  •  Your opinion or preference​

​​Treatment may include:

  •  ​Antibiotics
  •  Pain relievers
  •  Insertions of small tubes in the eardrum from chronic ear infections​​​