Do Ear Infections Go Away on Their Own?

Reviewed on 1/7/2022

Mild outer and middle ear infections usually resolve within one to two weeks and may go away on their own. Ear infections lasting 6 weeks or longer are considered chronic ear infections.
Mild outer and middle ear infections usually resolve within one to two weeks and may go away on their own. Ear infections lasting 6 weeks or longer are considered chronic ear infections.

There are different types of ear infections, based on where in the ear the infection occurs. 

Mild symptoms of ear infections that affect the outer or middle ear are mild and usually resolve within one to two weeks and may go away on their own. Inner ear infections can last longer.

Ear infections lasting 6 weeks or longer are considered chronic ear infections. It is important to see a doctor to determine whether an ear infection needs to be treated or not. 

In cases of a middle ear infection, medications such as antibiotics might not be needed and a doctor may recommend waiting to see if the infection goes away on its own. Home remedies to relieve the symptoms of an earache include: 

  • Rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Warm compresses applied to the area to help soothe pain
  • Over-the-counter medications 

Prescription medications used to treat ear infection include: 

  • For infections of the ear canal (otitis externa)
    • Neomycin (Ak-Spore HC, Cortisporin, Neotricin HC, Ocutricin-HC), 
    • Polymyxin B
    • Hydrocortisone (Cortisporin, Otocort, Poly Otic)
  • For infections of the middle ear (otitis media) and severe infections of the outer ear
    • Oral antibiotics

What Are Symptoms of an Ear Infection?

Symptoms of ear infections include:

In children, symptoms of ear infections may also include:

  • Pulling on the ear
  • Irritability
  • Fussiness
  • Restless sleep
  • Decreased appetite or difficulty eating
  • Decreased activity
  • Diarrhea

Symptoms of an ear infection may occur following respiratory infections such as the common cold, flu, or COVID-19.

What Causes an Ear Infection?

Ear infections in the outer canal (otitis externa, or “swimmer’s ear”) are caused by:

  • Bacterial or fungal overgrowth in the ear canal that results from moisture mixing with the earwax and debris in the ear canal
    • Moisture may enter the ear from swimming, diving, or even bathing and showering
  • Overuse of cotton swabs in the ear canal 

Ear infections in the middle ear (otitis media) are caused by:

  • Bacteria
    • Common bacterial causes of middle ear infections are Streptococcus pneumoniae (also called pneumococcus), Haemophilus influenzae, and Moraxella catarrhalis
  • Viruses
    • Common viral causes of middle ear infections are respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and flu (influenza) virus
  • Fluid from the sinuses can back up through the Eustachian tubes that connect the throat to the middle ear, such as when the sinuses or throat are inflamed from infection (from a cold, sinusitis, or an allergy attack) 
  • The backed-up fluid becomes trapped in the middle ear, which is a good breeding ground for bacteria and viruses

SLIDESHOW

Ear Infection Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment See Slideshow

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Reviewed on 1/7/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Images

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/external-otitis-pathogenesis-clinical-features-and-diagnosis?search=otitis%20externa&source=search_result&selectedTitle=2~85&usage_type=default&display_rank=2

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/external-otitis-treatment?search=otitis%20externa&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~85&usage_type=default&display_rank=1

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/ear-infections-otitis-media-in-children-beyond-the-basics?search=otitis%20media&source=search_result&selectedTitle=3~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=3

https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/ears-nose-and-throat/middle-ear-infection-otitis-media