An ear infection (acute otitis media) is most often a bacterial or viral infection that affects the middle ear, the air-filled space behind the eardrum that contains the tiny vibrating bones of the ear. Children are more likely than adults to get ear infections.
Ear infections frequently are painful because of inflammation and buildup of fluids in the middle ear.
Because ear infections often clear up on their own, treatment may begin with managing pain and monitoring the problem. Ear infection in infants and severe cases in general often require antibiotic medications. Long-term problems related to ear infections — persistent fluids in the middle ear, persistent infections or frequent infections — can cause hearing problems and other serious complications.
Apr. 20, 2013
- Otitis media (ear infection). National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/pages/earinfections.aspx. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- Lalwani AK. Current Diagnosis & Treatment in Otolaryngology -— Head & Neck Surgery. 3rd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=39. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- Gould JM, et al. Otitis media. Pediatrics in Review. 2010;31:102.
- Ear tubes. American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/Ear-Tubes.cfm. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- Benzocaine topical products: Sprays, gels and liquids — risk of methemoglobinemia. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm250264.htm. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- Hoberman A, et al. Treatment of acute otitis media in children under 2 years of age. New England Journal of Medicine. 2011;364:102.
- Tahtinen PA, et al. A placebo-controlled trial of antimicrobial treatment for acute otitis media. New England Journal of Medicine. 2011;364:116.
- Ear infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/antibiotic-use/uri/ear-infection.html. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- Coker TR, et al. Diagnosis, microbial epidemiology and antibiotic of acute otitis media in children. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2010;304:2161.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. The diagnosis and management of acute otitis media. Pediatrics. 2013;131:e964. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/02/20/peds.2012-3488
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.