Ear infections develop when a part of the ear becomes inflamed, normally as a result of a bacterial infection. Although these infections can occur in the outer, middle, and inner sections of the ear, they are most common in the middle ear. Middle ear infections occur more frequently in children than in adults. To evaluate a potential ear infection, a doctor will examine the ear with an otoscope, checking for fluid, redness, and swelling. They might need to lightly pump a small amount of air into the affected ear to see if the eardrum is functioning properly. Some patients might be asked to have a tympanometry study, and hearing tests may also be recommended. If an ear infection is confirmed, antibiotics are normally prescribed, particularly for middle and outer ear infections. Patients might be given prescription ear drops to relieve pain, and the use of over-the-counter pain relievers is often beneficial. In cases where an ear infection is caused or exacerbated by allergies or a cold, individuals might be advised to take an antihistamine, a decongestant, or a nasal spray with steroids.
Some of the most common signs associated with ear infections are discussed below.
Fluid drainage may occur with outer or middle ear infections, and this symptom is generally a sign of an advanced infection that requires prompt medical evaluation. Both children and adults with ear infections can experience fluid drainage. As fluid drains, it can create an uncomfortable sensation of fullness in the ear, and the drainage often means medicated ear drops are unable to reach the infection site. Before beginning treatment, doctors may need to remove some of the fluid so prescribed medications can work as effectively as possible. Any discharge of fluid from the ear, even if it is clear in color, warrants a doctor's assessment. In particular, patients should seek prompt medical care if the discharge contains blood or pus.
Learn more about the warning signs linked to ear infections now.