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Ear infection

Ear infection: Introduction

An ear infection is a common type of infection and is the result of an invasion of bacteria or viruses into the ear. An ear infection is a general term for several types of infections of the ears.

The ear includes three areas: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. An ear infection of the outer ear canal is called otitis externa or swimmer's ear. An ear infection of the middle ear is called otitis media or middle ear infection. Labyrinthitis is an inflammation of the inner ear that can be caused by a bacterial infection or viral infection of the 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 auditory bones and into the cochlea of the inner ear. In the inner ear, sound vibrations are converted into electrical impulses and carried by the 8th cranial nerve to the brain.

An ear infection can interfere with this process and result in symptoms that typically include ear pain and hearing impairment. Symptoms of ear infection may vary between individuals in character and intensity. The specific types of ear infection also cause some differing symptoms. Complications of an ear infection can be serious in some cases and result in brain abscess or permanent hearing loss. For more information on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of ear infection.

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 ear infections. They include swimmers and people who have had recent illnesses, especially upper respiratory infection. Going to a different climate or altitude, not being breastfed and living in a cold climate can also increase the risk. Ear infections can also run in families.

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

Treatment for an ear infection varies depending on the specific type of infection. Treatment may include oral antibiotics and/or antibiotic ear drops and corticosteroid ear drops. In some cases that do not resolve with medication, a surgical procedure may be needed to insert tubes in the ears, remove ear fluid or infected tissue and/or repair a damaged eardrum. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of ear infections....more »

Ear infection: Misdiagnosis

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

Causes of Ear infection:

The following medical conditions are some of the possible causes of Ear infection. There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor about your symptoms.

» Review Causes of Ear infection: Causes | Symptom Checker » | Assessment Questionnaire »

Home Diagnostic Testing and Ear infection

Home medical tests possibly related to Ear infection:

Causes of Types of Ear infection:

Review the causes of these more specific types of Ear infection:

Ear infection: Symptom Checker

Listed below are some combinations of symptoms associated with Ear infection, as listed in our database. Visit the Symptom Checker, to add and remove symptoms and research your condition.

Symptom Checker

Symptom Checker

Ear infection Treatments

The first step in treating an 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 least 15 seconds ...Ear infection Treatments

Some of the possible treatments listed in sources for treatment of Ear infection may include:

Review further information on Ear infection Treatments.

Alternative Treatments for Ear infection

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed as possibly helpful for Ear infection may include:

Message Boards for Ear infection

Symptom specific forums: The following patient stories in our interactive forums and message boards relate to Ear infection or relevant symptoms:

Diagnostic tests for Ear infection:

Various tests are used in the diagnosis of Ear infection. Some of these are listed below :

  • Physical examination
    • Manipulate the pinna to establish if this aggravates the pain - would suggest otitis externa, furunculosis, ear lobe infection or perichondritis.
    • Examine for enlargement of the local lymph nodes
    • Examine the nature of the ear discharge
    • Examine both ear canals and ear drums with otoscope looking for abnormalities such as infection, boil in outer ear canal, ruptured drum, cholesteatoma or foreign body
    • Clear or blood-filled blisters on the ear drum and canal skin suggests myringitis bullosa
    • Examine for swelling and tenderness behind the ear with downward displacement of the pinna of the ear which suggests mastoiditis
  • more tests...»

Ear infection: Animations

Medications or substances causing Ear infection:

The following drugs, medications, substances or toxins are some of the possible causes of Ear infection as a symptom. Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using, including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.

Ear infection: Comorbid Symptoms

Some of the comorbid or associated medical symptoms for Ear infection may include these symptoms:

Causes of General Symptom Types

Research the causes of these more general types of symptom:

Research the causes of related medical symptoms such as:

Causes of Similar Symptoms to Ear infection

Research the causes of these symptoms that are similar to, or related to, the symptom Ear infection:

Assessment Questionnaire: Questions your doctor may ask (and why!)

During a consultation, your doctor will use various techniques to assess the symptom: Ear infection. These will include a physical examination and possibly diagnostic tests. (Note: A physical exam is always done, diagnostic tests may or may not be performed depending on the suspected condition) Your doctor will ask several questions when assessing your condition. It is important to openly share any pertinent information to help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

It is also very important to bring an up-to-date list of all of your all medical conditions, medications including dosages, and names of numbers of any specialist you see.

Create your printable checklist here.

See Ear infection Assessment Questionnaire (16 listings)

Ear infection: Deaths

Read more about causes and Ear infection deaths.

Misdiagnosis and Ear infection

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 "good" bacteria in the more »

Ear infection: Research Related Doctors & Specialists

Other ways to find a doctor, or use doctor, physician and specialist online research services:

Definitions of Ear infection:

Invasion and growth of microorganisms in the ear; may be clinically inapparent or result in local cellular injury; may result in hearing loss or deafness.
- (Source - CRISP)

Organs affected by Ear infection:

The list of organs typically affected by Ear infection may include, but is not limited to:

Detailed list of causes of Ear infection

The list below shows some of the causes of Ear infection mentioned in various sources:

How Common are these Causes of Ear infection?

This information refers to the general prevalence and incidence of these diseases, not to how likely they are to be the actual cause of Ear infection. Of the 83 causes of Ear infection that we have listed, we have the following prevalence/incidence information:

  • 3 causes are "very common" diseases
  • 1 causes are "common" diseases
  • 3 causes are "uncommon" diseases
  • 0 causes are "rare" diseases
  • 4 causes are "very rare" diseases
  • 76 causes have no prevalence information.

Conditions listing medical symptoms: Ear infection:

The following list of conditions have 'Ear infection' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.

Select from the following alphabetical view of conditions which include a symptom of Ear infection or choose View All.

View All A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P R S T U V W X #

















Conditions listing medical complications: Ear infection:

The following list of medical conditions have Ear infection or similar listed as a medical complication in our database. The distinction between a symptom and complication is not always clear, and conditions mentioning this symptom as a complication may also be relevant. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.







  • Flu ... Otitis media










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Causes of Ear infection Based on Risk Factors

This information shows analysis of the list of causes of Ear infection based on whether certain risk factors apply to the patient:

  • Travel - has the patient travelled recently?
  • Diabetes - history of diabetes or family history of diabetes?

    Doctors and specialists: Who should I consult about Ear infection?

    Depending on the seriousness of the onset of Ear infection, you may want to consult one of the following medical professionals.

    Important:In extreme cases, always seek advice from emergency services :

    Classifications of Ear infection:

    Subtypes of Ear infection:

    Middle ear infection (29 causes), Ear canal irritation (8 causes), Ear inflammation (24 causes), Middle ear inflammation (18 causes)

    Medical Conditions associated with Ear infection:

    Ear symptoms (1999 causes), Head symptoms (10192 causes), Face symptoms (8109 causes), Infection-related symptoms (1293 causes)

    Symptoms related to Ear infection:

    Earache (162 causes), Ear pain (66 causes), Ear discharge (28 causes), Ear itching (14 causes), Ear symptoms (1999 causes), Eczema (227 causes), Psoriasis, Seborrheic dermatitis (20 causes), Ear wax, Too little ear wax, Ear infection (83 causes), Otitis externa (10 causes), Ear fungal infection

    Medical articles on signs and symptoms:

    Doctor-patient articles related to symptoms and diagnosis:

    These general medical articles may be of interest:

    Evidence Based Medicine Research for Ear infection

    Medical research papers related to Ear infection include:

    Research More Evidence-Based Medicine at

    Related medical articles from our Disease Center for Ear infection:

    More Ways To Research Medical Signs and Symptoms:


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