Middle Ear Infection (Otitis Media) in Adults

What is a middle ear infection?

A middle ear infection occurs
behind the eardrum. It is most often caused by a virus or bacteria. Most kids have at
least one middle ear infection by the time they are 3 years old. But adults can also get
them.

What causes middle ear infections?

Inflammation in the middle ear most often starts after you’ve had a sore throat, cold, or other upper respiratory problem. The infection spreads to the middle ear and causes fluid buildup behind the eardrum. 

What are the symptoms of a middle ear infection?

These are the most common symptoms
of middle ear infections in adults:

  • Ear pain
  • Feeling of fullness in the hear
  • Fluid draining from the ear
  • Fever
  • Hearing loss

These symptoms may look like other conditions or health problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is a middle ear infection diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will
review your health history and do a physical exam. He or she will check the outer ear
and the eardrum using an otoscope. The otoscope is a lighted tool that lets the
healthcare provider see inside the ear. A pneumatic otoscope blows a puff of air into
the ear to test eardrum movement. When there is fluid or infection in the middle ear,
movement is decreased.

Your provider may also do a tympanometry. This is a test that directs air and sound to the middle ear.

If you have ear infections often, your healthcare provider may suggest having a hearing test.