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  • Writer's pictureDr. Koralla Raja Meghanadh

Otitis Media Symptoms: Understanding the Signs of Middle Ear Infection

Updated: Apr 1

Otitis Media, or Middle Ear Infection, is one of the most common infections in the human body among all ages.

90% of ear infections are Otitis Media and mostly occur due to a common cold.

Identifying the Symptoms of Middle Ear Infection

If you're suffering from a middle ear infection, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Ear Pain

  • Sensation of Blockage, or Hearing Loss, or Clogged ears

  • Ear Discharge

  • Fever

Otitis Media Symptoms Middle Ear Infection Signs

How Symptoms Develop and Progress

Most middle ear infections originate from a common cold. The infection typically moves to the middle ear either towards the end of the rhinitis (common cold) or during its second week. Initially, patients may experience a feeling of blockage and discomfort in the ear.

To know more about the causes of middle ear infections. Please check out our article.

Pain and Fluid Build-up

As fluid or pus accumulates in the middle ear, it interferes with the vibration of the eardrum, affecting the air pressure within the middle ear. Inflammatory chemicals are released, which stimulate pain in nerve endings, causing discomfort as the fluid level rises.

Eardrum Rupture and Pus Discharge

Eventually, the increasing fluid pressure causes the eardrum to bulge and ultimately rupture, leading to a discharge of thick or watery pus. The pain generally lessens as the eardrum ruptures and releases the pressure built up in the middle ear.

Complications with Perforation

Once the eardrum is perforated, bacteria from the outer ear can migrate into the middle ear, exacerbating the infection. Hearing loss could worsen once the eardrum is perforated, although it is usually 10 to 30%.

Systemic Response and Possible Hearing Loss

As the infection intensifies, your body directs more blood to the ear to help white blood cells combat the infection. The delicate bones within the ear can be damaged during this process, potentially causing up to 60% hearing loss. If the infection spreads to the inner ear, you could face total hearing loss, giddiness, and tinnitus.

Rare Symptom: Fever

Though less common, a fever may manifest as the body fights the infection.

Giddiness (Vertigo) and Tinnitus

In rare and neglected conditions, a person may experience Giddiness (Vertigo), Tinnitus, or both. The addition of these symptoms indicates the progress of this disease to the inner ear.

Once the disease reaches the inner ear, the rate at which damage occurs increases, and the chances of repairing the damage decrease with time. So, it is crucial to act immediately and get this situation fixed.

How do we identify ear infections in babies? Symptoms of Otitis Media in Babies

Ear infections are prevalent in babies. In fact, doctors in the pediatric emergency ward always have an otoscope with them to check the crying baby's ear.

Babies generally won't be able to communicate their symptoms with words. Instead, they keep rubbing their ears while crying. However, for newborns, crying is the only means of communication, making it challenging for the caregivers to understand the cause of their cry.

Important Note

If you suspect you have an ear infection, it's crucial to consult an ENT doctor for an accurate diagnosis. For more insights into ear infection symptoms, read our in-depth article. Different ear parts can be infected, so a thorough evaluation is essential for appropriate treatment.

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