Ear Infection


Ear infections account for an estimated 30 million visits to doctors’ offices each year and are the top reason children see physicians in the U.S. In fact, by age three, 5 in 6 children have experienced at least one ear infection. By kindergarten, that number goes up to almost 100%.

Types of Ear Infections

Middle ear infections are by far the most common type of infection in both children and adults. These infections cause inflammation, and often pain, in the part of the ear located just behind the eardrum. Middle ear infections are referred to medically as otitis media. They can be caused by viral or bacterial infections. This type of ear infection often resolves itself after a few days on its own, though some cases require intensive medical attention.

Though otitis media is the most common type of ear infection, other areas of the ear can also become infected. These infections typically come with different symptoms and can be quite serious. Anyone concerned about an ear infection should see a doctor to prevent more serious conditions or complication from developing. Certain types of ear infection can cause permanent damage to the auditory system without treatment.

Ear infections can be acute, recurring, or chronic. Acute ear infections are singular, short, and painful episodes of infection. When these infections resurface on a semi-regular basis, they are considered to be recurring and may require medical or surgical treatment from an ear specialist. Some people suffer from chronic ear infections, which means they persist for several months or years. Recurring infections may be deemed chronic depending on how often they resurface. Children and adults who suffer from chronic infections will likely require more extensive treatment, which often includes surgery.

Ear infections occur when a cold, throat infection, or allergy attack causes fluid to become trapped in the middle ear. Mostly affecting children, symptoms include earaches and thick yellow fluid coming from the ears.

What Are the Symptoms of an Ear Infection?


In adults:

  • Sharp, sudden pain

  • Continuous, dull earache

  • Stabbing pain with immediate warm drainage from the ear canal

  • A feeling of fullness in the ear

  • Nausea

  • Muffled hearing

  • Ear drainage


In young children:

  • Tugging at the ear

  • Poor sleep

  • Fever

  • Irritability and restlessness

  • Ear drainage

  • Nasal discharge

  • Diminished appetite

  • Crying at night when lying down

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