Middle Ear Infection or Inflammation (Otitis Media)

  • Medical Author:
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

  • Medical Author: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideEar Infection Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Ear Infection Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Are there any home remedies for acute middle ear infection?

Although there are a number of suggested home remedies for the treatment of ear infections, including humidified air, homeopathic treatments, naturopathic ear drops, decongestants, and antihistamines; there are limited studies suggesting the benefits of these measures over accepted and recommended treatments. Both oral and topical analgesics are effective in controlling the pain associated with ear infections, but the use of decongestants or antihistamines has not been demonstrated to improve symptoms or speed the resolution of acute otitis media.

What causes chronic middle ear infection or inflammation?

The Eustachian tube normally prevents the accumulation of fluid by allowing fluid to drain through the tube. Chronic otitis media develops over time, and often starts with a chronic middle ear effusion (fluid) that does not resolve. This persistent fluid will often become contaminated with bacteria, and the bacteria found in chronic otitis media are often different from those found in acute otitis media. Therefore, anything that disturbs the function of the Eustachian tube can lead to chronic otitis media.

In some individuals that are ill from other diseases, if there is pus draining from the ear, there is a danger that otitis media (especially bacterial-caused) may invade the mastoid bone and reach the brain. These individuals need to be seen urgently by a health-care professional. Do not delay treatment by trying home remedies.

What happens to the eardrum in chronic middle ear infection or inflammation?

The eardrum (tympanic membrane) has three delicate layers that help keep the eardrum thin, but strong. A chronic middle ear infection causes changes in the eardrum that weaken it, and often lead to a hole in the eardrum (tympanic membrane perforation). Eventually, the eardrum loses its strength and begins to collapse into the middle ear space.

When the eardrum collapses or retracts from negative pressure in the middle ear, it can attach to the other middle ear structures. It is frequently seen draped around the middle ear bones (ossicles) or the inner wall of the middle ear (promontory). This disrupts the conduction of sound through the middle ear, and may diminish hearing.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/3/2016

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