Ear Infections

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor

Know the basics

What is ear infection?

Ear infection often occurs when a cold, throat infection, or allergy attack and causes fluid to become trapped in the middle ear. This condition is frequently painful because of the inflammation and the buildup of fluids.

It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of ear infection?

In adults, the common symptoms include:

  • An earache (either a sharp, sudden pain or a dull, continuous pain);
  • A sharp stabbing pain with immediate warm drainage from the ear canal;
  • A feeling of fullness in the ear;
  • Nausea;
  • Muffled hearing;
  • Ear drainage.

In children, the common symptoms include:

  • Tugging at the ear;
  • Poor sleep;
  • Fever;
  • Irritability, restlessness;
  • Ear drainage;
  • Diminished appetite;
  • Crying at night when lying down.

Most ear infections do not cause long-term complications. However, frequent or persistent infections and persistent fluid buildup can result in some serious complications including impaired hearing speech or developmental delays, spread of infection, tearing of the eardrum.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What are the causes of ear infection?

Ear infections occur when one of your Eustachian tubes becomes swollen or blocked and fluid builds up in your middle ear. Eustachian tubes are small tubes that run from each ear directly to the back of the throat. The causes of Eustachian tube blockage include:

  • Allergies;
  • Colds;
  • Sinus infections;
  • Tobacco smoking;
  • Infected or swollen adenoids;
  • Excess mucus.

Know the risk factors

Who is at risk of ear infection?

Risk factors for ear infections include:

  • Children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years;
  • Group child care;
  • Bottle feeding;
  • Seasonal factors, especially during the fall and winter;
  • Poor air quality.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is ear infection diagnosed?

Your doctor diagnoses an ear infection or another condition based on the symptoms you describe and an exam. Also, the doctor will likely use a lighted instrument (an otoscope) to look at the ears, throat and nasal passage.

Pneumatic otoscope

This instrument is often the only specialized tool that a doctor needs to make a diagnosis of an ear infection. This is used to look in the ear and judge whether there is fluid behind the eardrum.

Additional tests

If the diagnosis does not provide enough information, your doctor may perform other diagnostic tests, such as:

  • Tympanometry. This test measures the movement of the eardrum. The device quantifies how well the eardrum moves and provides an indirect measure of pressure within the middle ear.
  • Acoustic reflectometry. This test measures how much sound emitted from a device is reflected back from the eardrum, an indirect measure of fluids in the middle ear.
  • Tympanocentesis. These tests to determine the infectious agent in the fluid may be beneficial if an infection has not responded well to previous treatments.

If your child has had persistent ear infections or persistent fluid buildup in the middle ear, your doctor may refer you to a hearing specialist (audiologist), speech therapist or developmental therapist for tests of hearing, speech skills, language comprehension or developmental abilities.

How is ear infection treated?

The goal of treatment for most doctors is to rid the middle ear of infection before more serious complications set in. Treatment usually involves eliminating the causes of the ear infection and killing any invading bacteria in the Eustachian tube.

Medicine for ear infections

Amoxicillin is the antibiotic of choice for treating bacterial ear infections as it is highly effective. A single course of amoxicillin can usually knock out an ear infection in seven to 10 days. In addition, you are not recommended to use aspirin and tonsillectomy for the treatment.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

How can ear infections be prevented?

These tips can help you to reduce the risk of ear infection:

  • Often wash your hands;
  • Avoiding overly crowded areas;
  • Forgoing pacifiers with infants and small children;
  • Breastfeeding infants;
  • Avoiding secondhand smoke;
  • Keeping immunizations up-to-date.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: September 19, 2016 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019

Want to live your best life?
Get the Hello Doktor Daily newsletter for health tips, wellness updates and more.