What is a Middle Ear Infection?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 December 2018
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Also known as otitis media, a middle ear infection is an inflammation of the area between the eardrum and the inner ear. Along with an outer ear infection, the middle ear infection is commonly referred to as an earache. The condition is more common with children, and occurs when a bout with the common cold leads to an infection in the Eustachian tube that extends from the middle ear to the back of the nasal cavities.

When a middle ear infection occurs, there is likely to be a great deal of discomfort. This is due to the amount of pressure that builds up just behind the eardrum, causing a feeling of fullness in the head and ears. While ear pain is not always present, it is not unusual, especially with younger children. In addition to the full feeling in the ear, there may also be some problems with equilibrium. This is because of inflammation of the Eustachian tube, which is responsible for the proper drainage of fluids from the tissue situated on each side of the skull. When the drainage is compromised, the individual may feel slightly dizzy when standing or moving suddenly.


The incidence of middle ear infection usually takes place as a cold is beginning to fade, or even within a few days after the last of the cold symptoms cease. The stuffy feeling in the nose will seem to migrate to the ear, where it lodges and begins to create pressure. At the same time, the individual may feel some pain for a few days before the infection begins to subside. In severe cases, there is some chance of discharge from the ear and possible temporary damage to the eardrum. However, an ear problem of this type will normally resolve within a week and any damage to the eardrum will heal in a short period of time.

In many instances, a middle ear infection can be treated effectively with antibiotics or even some over the counter products. When the individual is in relatively good health, the body’s natural defenses are usually sufficient to overcome the infection and gradually resolve the inflammation. However, people who experience a recurring ear problem of this type may require more intensive drug therapy in order to overcome the infection.

Alternative treatments recommended for a middle ear infection include such options as herbal flushes, chiropractic realignment, acupuncture and acupressure. While there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence for the effectiveness of these alternative solutions, none of them are currently supported by modern scientific research.



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