Diagnosis of Middle Ear Infection
by Alayne Ronnenberg, ScD
You will be asked about your child's symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will ask about signs such as ear pain or drainage. An ear infection may be suspected based on symptoms. A scope may be used to look inside the ear. An infection will cause redness, swelling, or pus around the eardrum. A small puff of air may also be passed into the ear. The eardrum should move a bit with the air. Fluid or swelling around the eardrum will make the eardrum stiff. This would suggest an infection.
It may be hard to tell the difference between a new infection or one that has lasted some time. Treatment can differ between theses types.
Other tests may include:
Acute otitis media (AOM) in Adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-otitis-media-in-adults. Updated September 4, 2019. Accessed December 5, 2019.
Acute otitis media (AOM) in Children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname.... Updated September 4, 2019. Accessed December 5, 2019.
Ear infections in children. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) website. Available at:
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Updated May 12, 2017. Accessed December 5, 2019.
Lieberthal AS, Carroll AE, et al. The diagnosis and management of acute otitis media. Pediatrics. 2013 Mar;131(3):e964-e999
Middle ear infections. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/Pages/Middle-Ear-Infections.aspx. Updated February 22, 2013. Accessed December 5, 2019.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole S. Meregian, PA
Last Updated: 8/25/2020
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