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Otitis Media

What is Otitis Media?
Otitis media is an infection of the middle ear caused by viruses and/or bacteria. The tubes in the ear become clogged with fluid, causing them to become inflamed and swollen. This common condition of early childhood can cause transient hearing problems as well as ear pain and fever. 


In children too young to talk, look for the following signs: 
  • Tugging at the ears 
  • Fever and irritability 
  • Difficulties with balance 
  • Crying more than usual 
  • Drainage from the ear 
  • Hearing problems 


  • Physical exam 
  • Ear exam using a simple method called pneumatic otoscopy 
  • Hearing tests 

It is important to promptly diagnose and treat otitis media in children to prevent complications and to prevent or treat transient hearing loss.


  • Pain relievers 
  • Antibiotics for bacterial infections, but NOT for viral ones, such as the common cold virus. Antibiotics may not be used immediately for many children with ear infections as these infections usually resolve without antibiotics. 
  • A type of surgery called myringotomy to insert small tube in the ear temporarily to relieve pressure in children with frequent and severe infections or in those with fluid in the ears that lasts for more than several months. 

When to Call for Help 
If your child has any of the above symptoms, talk to your pediatrician.

At Hopkins Children’s, otitis media is treated by the Division of Otolaryngology.

External Links:

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders  

National Library of Medicine 

The Harriet Lane Links