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Symptoms and Signs of Ear Infection (Middle Ear)

Doctor's Notes on Ear Infection (Middle Ear)

Ear infection can involve the external canal, the eardrum and/or the middle ear (also termed otitis media). The middle ear is the space behind the eardrum containing the ossicles (ear bones) and the opening to the Eustachian tube. Infection of the middle ear has signs and symptoms of pain, dizziness and partial hearing loss. Other symptoms may include a fullness feeling in the ear, ringing in the ear, nausea, vomiting, vertigo; some individuals may develop a discharge from the ear.

The causes of middle ear infections are mainly bacteria or viruses that get into the middle ear, often from the Eustachian tube or from the ear canal through a break in the eardrum (tympanic membrane).

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Ear Infection (Middle Ear) Symptoms

Symptoms of an ear infection include:

Symptoms may follow a respiratory infection such as the common cold.

Discharge from the ear canal is often caused by the infection known as swimmer's ear (otitis externa). A painful ear with decreased hearing is often the result of otitis media, a middle ear infection.

Ear Infection Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Slideshow

Ear Infection Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Slideshow

Sometimes it seems like kids are always getting ear infections. Ear infections are very common in children. Children get ear infections about two out of every three times they have a cold. Children are more prone to ear infections because their small ears do not drain fluid as well as adult ears. Kids’ immune systems are also immature, and this increases the likelihood of certain infections.

There are three types of ear infections. Each type is defined according to where they occur in the ear canal. An ear infection may take place in the inner, middle, or outer ear. Each type of ear infection may exhibit different symptoms.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.