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Middle ear infections

There are a number of infections that can affect people’s ears.
One of the most common is a middle ear infection, especially in younger children. While anyone can suffer from an ear infection at any age, many happen in children aged between six and 18 months old, particularly in boys.

Symptoms of middle ear infections

Apart from earache, look out for dulled hearing or a temporary sense of hearing loss, hearing problems or deafness in one ear. Here are some of the main symptoms you might experience if you’re suffering from a middle ear infection:

  • Itching in your ear
  • High temperature
  • Discharge from your ear
  • A red or swollen ear canal
  • Ear fullness
  • Dry skin or eczema in or around your ear canal
  • Pain (earache), which may get worse when you push or pull your ear
  • Temporarily dulled hearing – if the swelling is enough to block your ear canal

You should speak to your GP if you or your child are suffering from any of these symptoms.

Middle ear infection

Middle ear infections in children

If you’re a parent, it’s important to be aware of these symptoms as middle ear infections are common in children.

Although not a perfect indicator of otitis media, since these symptoms overlap with other illnesses, recognising these middle ear infection symptoms could help you get the medical help you need quickly.

Look out for your child rubbing, tugging or pulling at their ear, as well as them being irritated or having a high temperature. A runny nose, coughing, poor appetite, restless nights and being unresponsive to softly spoken words and quiet sounds are also signs that your child could have a middle ear infection. This final symptom, along with a loss of balance, are likely to be the clearest indications of otitis media.

Middle ear infection complications

It’s not very common for a middle ear infection to cause complications.

But those that do occur can be difficult and serious. In some instances, the infection can spread to the bones beneath the ear, a condition called mastoiditis. In rarer cases still, the infection can spread to the membranes which protect the spinal cord and brain, which is meningitis.

These complications are rare, but it’s worth keeping a careful eye on your child to make sure the middle ear infection passes quickly.

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Middle ear infection FAQs

Other types of ear infections

Outer ear infections
Outer ear infections (otitis externa) can either be an acute infection or a chronic condition.

Outer ear infections

Fungal ear infections
Fungal ear infections (otomycosis) affect the outer area of the ear.

Fungal ear infections