What is an Eardrum Infection?

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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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An eardrum infection, also known as otitis media or infectious myringitis, is most commonly referred to as a middle ear infection. It is an infection caused by excess fluid collecting directly behind the eardrum, which can cause the drum itself or the area behind it to become inflamed. An eardrum infection is one of the most common illnesses among children, but it is rare in adults. Eardrum infections can be painful, but they typically are not a cause for alarm. Even children who suffer from chronic ear infections typically will outgrow them and suffer no permanent damage.

Ear infections almost always follow a cold or other viral infection. The small tubes connecting the ears to the throat can become swollen during a cold, blocking off the tubes and allowing fluid to become trapped behind the ear drum. This trapped fluid quickly becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and can cause the eardrum and the area behind it to become infected. Children are most often affected by this because the tubes between their ears and their throat are much smaller than those of adults, so it takes much less swelling for the tubes to become blocked.


The most common symptom of an eardrum infection is pain. This can translate to excessive fussiness, crying and ear pulling in babies and toddlers, as well as sleeping issues and mild fevers. Some children handle pain differently than other children, so the only noticeable symptom of an eardrum infection might be a sticky, yellow fluid leaking from the ears. This takes place when the infection causes the eardrum to burst and release the fluid, which is not as serious as it might look. When the eardrum bursts, it relieves the pressure and thus reduces the pain that the child is experiencing, and the eardrum itself will heal quickly.

An eardrum infection are diagnosed by an ear exam using a specialized light to see behind the eardrum and determine whether there is fluid trapped behind it. Most ear infections in babies and toddlers go away on their own, but the pain can be managed using warm compresses on the ear and by administering over-the-counter pain relievers intended for infants and small children. The doctor, in the absence of any drainage from the ear, might prescribe ear drops that can numb the ear, relieving the patient’s pain. In some cases, especially with chronic ear infections, doctors will prescribe antibiotics to kill the infection. If the child does not respond to the antibiotics or the ear infection is affecting his or her hearing, the doctor might perform a simple surgery known as a myringotomy, which involves inserting a small tube inside the eardrum to allow any excess fluid to drain and prevent future buildup of fluid.


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Post 1

Awesome. Now I know what is wrong with my sister.

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