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Ear infection

Ear infection (Otitis Media) is an inflammation of the middle ear and is usually caused by bacteria. It’s the most common illness in babies and young children and occasionally occurs in adults.

Ears can become infected during a cold, allergy or upper respiratory infection. Tubes in the ears can get clogged with mucus and other fluid. When fluid presses on the eardrum, it causes ear pain, swelling and redness. It also can cause hearing loss since the eardrum cannot vibrate properly.

Symptoms of ear infection include:

  • Balance difficulties or dizziness
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Earache
  • Fever
  • Hearing problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pressure in the ear

Children who don’t yet talk, and can’t verbally express their discomfort, may tug at their ears or cry more than usual.


A doctor will use an otoscope, a lighted instrument, to see inside the ear and check for redness or fluid behind the eardrum. Red, bulging eardrums are likely infected. If needed, the doctor also may use instruments that check eardrum movement with a puff of air or with varying air pressure.

Ear infections can heal by themselves, but severe infections and infections in infants may require antibiotics. Over-the-counter pain relievers may help, too.

Especially with antibiotics, ear infections begin to clear in a few days although fluid may remain in the middle ear for a few weeks.

For children who keep getting ear infections in spite of using antibiotics, the doctor may recommend a surgery to insert small tubes into the ear to open airflow and improve drainage. Tubes usually stay in the ear for several months and then fall out on their own.

Surgically removing a child’s adenoids also can help prevent ear infections.

Our Physicians

Rex ENT Specialists can help you with your ear infection. Dr. John A. Garside, M.D., is trained in the newest techniques of treating your ear, nose and throat conditions. For personalized and timely care, visit us at our offices in Raleigh.


To find out more about ear infection, see the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

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