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What is middle ear inflammation?
Inflammatory condition in the middle ear cavity is called ‘middle ear inflammation’. This inflammation generally occurs following a bacterial or viral infection. And mostly one of the ears is affected. It is very typical to see middle ear inflammation diagnosis during pediatric patients’ doctor visits and it is also the most common cause of hearing loss in children. Even though it is frequently seen in children, middle ear inflammation rarely affects adults. It usually arises during the early days of winter and spring.

Is middle ear inflammation a serious condition?
Yes, because it causes severe ear pain and hearing loss. Hearing loss might cause decline in children’s learning capacity and delay in their talking. If the disease is treated correctly and effectively, then the hearing goes back to normal almost every time. Middle ear inflammation is a serious disease because it may spread to adjacent structures. Especially the mastoid bone in the skull is the first to be affected. That is why it is important to know the causes of your symptoms and to consult your doctor when necessary.

What are the causes of middle ear inflammation?
If the eustachian tube, at the very back side of the nose, which provides aeration of the middle ear and adjustment of its pressure diffence with external environment, gets clogged because of a cold, allergy or a bacterial or viral upper respiratory tract infection, then mucus or inflammatory fluid accumulation (buildup) occurs at the back of the eardrum. This is called middle ear inflammation. Inflammatory buildup in the middle ear cavity causes ear pain, redness on the eardrum and curving. Since the eardrum cannot vibrate enough and because the inflammatory fluid takes the place of air in the middle ear, hearing loss occurs. Sometimes eardrum cannot take the pressue anymore and gets ruptured at a weak point. Inflammation leaks from middle ear to outer ear canal. Yet, in most cases the inflammation is confined inside the middle ear rather than flowing all the way out because of the swollen eustachian tube. As the infection factor cease to exist, in the middle ear, the condition of effusion or in other words serous otitis media arises. This effusion might become chronic and stay in the middle ear cavity for months, even years. This is also one of the reasons of frequently recurring middle ear inflammations and it also causes hearing problems.

What is done at the doctor’s office?
Your doctor will first listen to your complaints and learn about your history and then will perform a general ear, nose and throat examination. He examines your ears with an instrument called otoscope. Compares two sides. He checks to see if there is any swelling, redness, curving or discharge in the eardrum and also inspects if it is active or not. Evaluates the findings and concludes a diagnosis. According to the situation, he might ask for audiogram and tympanogram. After the diagnosis is set, he writes your prescription. You should take your medications as described and go for a follow-up appointment. The pain will go away after you started taking your medications but your middle ear cannot be completely free of inflammation. Therefore, for full recovery, it is very important for you to take your medications as you were told by your doctor.

Are there any other treatment options besides medical treatment?
Middle ear inflammations are mostly responsive to medical treatment. In some cases, further treatment options are recommended. Your doctor might also recommend myringotomy treatment as an option; it is simply creating a tiny incision in the ear drum with a surgical procedure to ease the ear pain by draining the inflammation out. That incision heals in few days. Your doctor might recommend inserting an ear tube as well. The tube can stay in the ear, for the length of time period needed for middle ear inflammation to cease and for the eustachian tube to get back to normal. During that time period, it is important to avoid water getting into the ears because inflammation might relapse. Middle ear inflammation might chronically generate from infected tonsils or adenoid. In such cases, your doctor might recommend tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. This procedure can be performed concurrently with ear tube insertion. If the source of the disease is allergy related, then the allergy needs to be treated.   

When should I suspect middle ear inflammation?

For the babies, when there is:

For the kids, teens and adults, when there is:

If there is one or more of these symptoms, then contact an ENT specialist.

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