A middle ear infection occurs
behind the eardrum. It is most often caused by a virus or bacteria. Most kids have at
least one middle ear infection by the time they are 3 years old. But adults can also get
Inflammation in the middle ear most often starts after you’ve had a sore throat, cold, or other upper respiratory problem. The infection spreads to the middle ear and causes fluid buildup behind the eardrum.
These are the most common symptoms
of middle ear infections in adults:
These symptoms may look like other conditions or health problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider will
review your health history and do a physical exam. He or she will check the outer ear
and the eardrum using an otoscope. The otoscope is a lighted tool that lets the
healthcare provider see inside the ear. A pneumatic otoscope blows a puff of air into
the ear to test eardrum movement. When there is fluid or infection in the middle ear,
movement is decreased.
Your provider may also do a tympanometry. This is a test that directs air and sound to the middle ear.
If you have ear infections often, your healthcare provider may suggest having a hearing test.
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It
will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Treatment may include:
Untreated ear infections can lead to:
Cold and allergy medicines don't
seem to prevent ear infections. And currently there is no vaccine that can prevent the
disease. But check with your healthcare provider and make sure your vaccines are
up-to-date. Living in a home where cigarettes are smoked can increase the chances of ear
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
The University of Chicago Medicine
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Chicago, IL 60637 | 773-702-1000
Appointments: Call UCM Connect at 1-888-824-0200