How is acute otitis media diagnosed?


Acute otitis media is diagnosed by a physician using two main methods. When an ear infection is suspected, an otoscope, or instrument with a small light, is inserted into the ear canal. This lets the doctor see the eardrum. If it is swollen, there is fluid and/or mucus behind the eardrum and indicates an infection. A doctor may also use a pneumatic otoscope to force a light puff of air onto the eardrum. Fluid behind the eardrum prevents it from moving as much as if there were no fluid there.

Tympanometry is another test for otitis media. A physician places a small plug into the ear canal. The plug changes the air pressure in the canal and also emits tones. By measuring how the eardrum reacts to the tones and air pressure changes, the doctor can evaluate the condition of a person's middle ear.

Acoustic reflectometry involves projecting sounds into the ear. The sounds have different frequencies and can help the doctor determine the amount of fluid in the ear.

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