Healthy Living

What are the Symptoms of an Ear Infection?

What are the Symptoms of an Ear Infection?

Key Takeaways

  • Ear infections cause several irritating symptoms that are difficult to endure.
  • There are two types of ear infections: acute and chronic.

Ear infections refer to the inflammation or infection of the middle ear, which is most commonly seen in children. Middle ear infection or media otitis is caused by bacteria or viruses. The infection begins as sore throat or cold and then gradually spreads to the middle ear. This is divided into two types – acute and chronic. Acute middle ear infections have a sudden onset, and persist for a short duration, while the symptoms of chronic otitis may remain for a month or so. Middle ear infections are most commonly seen in children.

Eustachian tubes connect the middle ear to the throat. This tube may become swollen with cold which then blocks the channel. The fluid inside the ear gets trapped within the tube allowing the infectious organisms to grow and cause infection and inflammation.

The major symptoms of ear infections in children include:

  • Disturbed sleep because of pain, which increases while lying down
  • Pulling at the ear
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Difficulty in responding to sounds
  • Loss of balance
  • High grade fever
  • Headache
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear

In adults, a middle ear infection may cause:

  • Sudden, sharp pain or dull, persistent pain in the affected ear
  • Shooting pain in the ear that follows drainage from the ear canal
  • A full feeling in the ear
  • Muffled or diminished hearing
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear
  • Nausea

Some of the symptoms and signs may be indicative of a number of other conditions and should be brought to the attention of a doctor for treatment and diagnosis.

Some of the warning signs to look out for include:

  • Fever above 100.4 degrees may point to more serious infection
  • Presence of stiff neck
  • Poor response from the child or lethargy
  • Frequent bouts of ear infections
  • Severe ear pain
  • Fluid, pus, or bloody discharge from the ear

In some cases inflammation of the middle ear happens without any infection. This also causes the fluid to accumulate leading to reduced hearing and plugged feeling in the affected ear. The hearing may return to normal once the fluid is drained completely.

Most of the ear infections do not cause any serious complications. But if the infection is persistent and recurs often, it may lead to complications like:

  • Impaired hearing – Persistent infection may lead to significant hearing loss.
  • Speech and development delays in children – Impaired hearing in children may lead to delays in social and developmental skills.
  • Spread of infection – If left untreated, this infection may spread to neighboring tissues as well.
  • Eardrum tear – Some infections may lead to tearing of the eardrum which may heal on its own while some others may require a surgery to repair.

Hearing Loss