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Ear infections, sometimes called acute otitis media, are infections of the middle ear, the air-filled space behind the eardrum that contains the tiny, vibrating bones of the ear. While children are more likely to get ear infections than adults, some people are prone to having multiple ear infections which can cause hearing problems and other serious complications. Adults are also more prone to get fluid behind the eardrum without an infection, which causes a feeling of muffled hearing and blocked ear.

Symptoms

Although ear infections often clear up on their own, the onset of signs and symptoms are usually rapid.

Children

  • Ear pain, especially when lying down
  • Tugging or pulling at an ear
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Crying more than usual; fussiness
  • Trouble hearing or responding to sound
  • Loss of balance
  • Fever
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite

Adults

  • Ear pain, although no pain may be evident if just ear fluid
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear
  • Trouble hearing

Risk Factors

Risk factors of ear infections include:

  • Age – children between 6 months and 2 years are more likely to have ear infections
  • Group childcare
  • Seasonal factors – people with seasonal allergies are more likely to have ear infections
  • Poor air quality
  • Cleft palate

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