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Acute Otitis Media

Acute Otitis Media

Acute otitis media is commonly called an ear infection. It means that the space behind the eardrum, the middle ear, is filled with fluid that became infected.

The mucous membrane lining the middle ear space, like that of the nasal passageway, produces fluid. Normally, the fluid drains from the middle ear down the Eustachian tube into the back of the nasopharynx, the area where the nose and throat meet. Viral infections of the upper respiratory tract (for example, a cold) can result in increased production of mucus from the middle ear lining and swelling of the Eustachian tube. This causes fluid to build up in the middle ear space. Fluid in the chamber dampens vibration of the eardrum and movement of the middle ear bones, leading to a decrease in hearing. If bacteria infect this fluid, acute otitis media results.

Middle ear infection is most common in young children. By age 3, 80 percent of children have had at least one episode of otitis media and almost 50 percent of children have had three or more episodes. Patients experience a sense of fullness in the ear, decreased hearing and pain.

Our physicians check for fluid behind the eardrum on examination with an otoscope or ontological microscope. Sometimes, drainage of pus or fluid from the canal or swelling/tenderness of the mastoid bone behind the ear can occur. These are more serious conditions and may require treatment beyond oral antibiotics.

Management strategies include observation, antibiotics or ear tube placement.

What are the signs and symptoms of acute otitis media?

  • Sense of fullness in the ear
  • Decreased hearing
  • Pain


Keck Medicine of USC
Univeristy of Southern California
Keck Medicine of USC
Keck Medicine of USC
Keck Medicine of USC is the University of Southern California’s medical enterprise, one of only two university-owned academic medical centers in the Los Angeles area.