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Middle ear infection

Middle ear infection: Introduction

A middle ear infection is a common type of ear infection. A middle ear infection is also called otitis media.

A middle ear infection is the result of an invasion of bacteria into the section of the ear called the middle ear. The ear includes three areas: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. Sound waves travel through the outer ear, into the middle ear where they cause vibration of the tympanic membrane. These vibrations are then transmitted through the inner ear. In the inner ear, sound vibrations are converted into electrical impulses and carried by the 8th cranial nerve to the brain.

A middle ear infection can interfere with this process and result in ear pain, hearing impairment and other symptoms. Symptoms of a middle ear infection may vary between individuals in character and intensity. Complications of a middle ear infection can be serious in some cases and result in permanent hearing loss and other problems. For more details on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of middle ear infection.

There are two types of middle ear infections: acute otitis media and chronic otitis media. Acute otitis media usually follows a viral upper respiratory tract infection, such as a cold or influenza. A chronic otitis media is an ongoing middle ear infection that can occur after an acute otitis media or due to a poorly healed perforated eardrum or for other reasons.

Middle ear infections occur most commonly in infants and young children, although they can happen at any age. Certain other populations are at a higher risk for developing middle ear infections. They include people who have had recent illnesses, especially an upper respiratory infection or sinusitis. Those who have a perforated eardrum are also at risk. Going to a different climate or altitude, being bottle fed as an infant instead of breastfed, and living in a cold climate can also increase the risk. Middle ear infections can also run in families.

Diagnosing a middle ear infection begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical and ear examination. The ear is examined with a lighted instrument called an otoscope.

Making a diagnosis may also include performing a variety of hearing tests (audiometry tests). A person with a middle ear infection, especially chronic otitis media, may need to consult with ear specialists, such as an audiologist and/or otolaryngologist, in order to get a full examination, testing, diagnosis and treatment. A CT scan of the head may be done in some cases to rule out or diagnose the spread of the middle ear infection, which can cause such complications as brain abscess.

A diagnosis of a middle ear infection may be missed or delayed in some populations. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of middle ear infection.

Treatment for a middle ear infection varies depending on the specific type of middle ear infection. Treatment may include oral medications, ear drops and surgical procedures in some severe cases. For more details on treatment, refer to treatment of middle ear infection. ...more »

Middle ear infection: Also called otitis media, a middle ear infection is an infection of the inner ear canal. It is most common in infants and young children, usually as a complication from a common cold, flu, or sore throat.

The main symptoms are earache and fever, but various other symptoms are possible such as ear fluid draining, and hearing loss. Infants may have difficulty communicating that they have earache, but may display other behaviors indicating this, such as tugging the ears, irritability, crying, and so on. Diagnosis is made from symptoms and an inspection of the inner ear canal using the proper instrument. Treatments may include antibiotics and anti-fever medications, though not all cases warrant such medications. ...more »

Middle ear infection: Symptoms

Symptoms of a middle ear infection can vary in severity and nature between individuals and can differ depending on the specific type of middle ear infection: acute otitis media or chronic otitis media.

Symptoms of an acute otitis media include ear pain, a feeling of fullness in the ear, fever, chills and hearing loss. Infants and young ...more symptoms »

Middle ear infection: Treatments

The first step in treating a middle ear infection is prevention. Prevention measures include using the same precautions that are recommended to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, such as the flu or colds. These include covering the mouth and nose with the elbow or a tissue when you sneeze or cough and washing hands frequently with soap and water for at ...more treatments »

Middle ear infection: Misdiagnosis

Because middle ear infections most commonly occur in infants and young children who do not yet communicate well, a diagnosis of middle ear infection may be delayed or missed. Symptoms of middle ear infection can be similar to or occur with symptoms of other conditions, such as tonsillitis, headache, tooth problems, influenza, upper respiratory ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Middle ear infection

Treatments for Middle ear infection

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Diagnostic Tests for Middle ear infection

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Middle ear infection: Complications

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Causes of Middle ear infection

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Disease Topics Related To Middle ear infection

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Middle ear infection: Undiagnosed Conditions

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Misdiagnosis and Middle ear infection

Mild worm infections undiagnosed in children: Human worm infestations, esp. threadworm, can be overlooked in some cases, because it may cause only mild or even absent symptoms. Although the most common symptoms are more »

Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely to cause some level of diarrhea in patients. The reason is that antibiotics kill off not only "bad" bacteria, but can also kill the more »

Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it can be over-diagnosed (it can, of course, more »

Blood pressure cuffs misdiagnose hypertension in children: One known misdiagnosis issue with hyperension, arises in relation to the simple equipment used to more »

Children with migraine often misdiagnosed: A migraine often fails to be correctly diagnosed in pediatric patients. These patients are not the typical migraine sufferers, but migraines can also occur in children. See misdiagnosis more »

Middle ear infection: Research Doctors & Specialists

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Definitions of Middle ear infection:

Inflammation of the middle ear; common in children - (Source - WordNet 2.1)


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