What are the symptoms of an ear infection ? - inner, middle, and outer ear infections

Updated: May 19

Dr. K. R. Meghanadh

The following are symptoms of an ear infection in adults that can help you identify an ear infection.


  1. Pain in the ear

  2. Foul smelled watery discharge from the ear

  3. Yellow/green color pus from the ear

  4. A sensation of ear block or deafness

  5. Experiencing ringing or other sounds in the ear – Tinnitus

  6. Itching in the ear


This article will give you an overview of ear infections before consulting an ENT doctor. The article cannot help diagnose or treat as the infections can be complicated. We have a chance of having two or more infections at a time. Getting the treatment from an expert ENT doctor ASAP is required. Delay and improper diagnosis can lead to permanent damage. We request you to please read the full article and not skip any part to get the correct understanding.

How to know what ear infection you have?

Ear infection can occur in the outer ear, middle ear, or inner ear. These infections can spread from one part of the ear to other parts of the same ear. This article will list out the symptoms of each ear infection and give you an idea on "What are the symptoms of an ear infection ?".


Inner ear infection indications

Ear inner has two jobs

  1. Hearing

  2. Maintain balance


What are the symptoms of an ear infection ?

Deafness or ear block sensation and feeling off-balance, i.e., vertigo/giddiness, are apparent inner ear infection symptoms. You have to consult a doctor immediately when you have these two symptoms. There is a chance for the infection to propagate from the inner ear to the brain, resulting in fever, vomiting, altered sensorium, and seizures(fits).


Most of these inner ear infections are from the middle ear and rarely from the brain.


Symptoms of middle ear infection

Symptoms of middle ear infection are

  1. Severe ear pain

  2. Fever

  3. Ear discharge

  4. Deafness or block sensation

Symptoms for middle ear infection

Discharge from the ear can be transparent watery consistency, a yellow or a green color thick pus, or even foul-smelling watery discharge.

Middle ear infections are primarily secondary ear infections from the nose or sinus that can spread to the inner or outer ear. Treating infection in the nose or sinusitis can help recover or at least stop the spread of the infection. You can use Otrivin nose drops and do steam inhalation to reduce the source of infection, i.e., rhinitis(common cold) or sinusitis. The idea of home treatments mentioned is to delay or prevent the disease's progression but not cure it.


Symptoms of an outer ear infection

Symptoms of an outer ear infection can include discharge from the ear and tenderness in the pinna. Unlike pain that can be felt anytime, in tenderness, you can feel the pain only when you touch. So, when you touch the outer ear, you will have extreme pain.


You will have only pain in the middle ear infection, but you can have both pain and tenderness in an outer ear infection.


Causes for ear itching

Itching in the ear indicates a fungal ear infection(Otomycosis) in the outer ear. You could have an itchy ear followed by pain and an increase in the severity of itchy feeling. You have to consult an ENT doctor and get the ear cleaned, followed by anti-fungal ear drops. A delay in treatment could lead to the perforation of the eardrum. The use of earbuds is a common cause of Otomycosis.



Causes for ear itching


Please read our article on Otomycosis to understand "A spike in Otomycosis cases." This article tells about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of Otomycosis. This article even tells you how self-medication is ultimately going wrong in the case of Otomycosis.



Perforation of the eardrum in outer ear infection and middle ear infection

There is a risk of eardrum perforation in middle ear infection and outer ear infection. When there is a perforation of the eardrum, the pain in the ear will come down, and ear discharge will start. The discharge could be watery or pus type. You need to consult the doctor immediately. When treated ASAP, the eardrum can heal itself. Else, you might need major surgery to close the perforation.



Dr. K. R. Meghanadh

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