How are ear infections diagnosed?

Your doctor will start with a medical history and thorough physical examination, including an assessment of your ears, nose and throat. Then using an instrument called an otoscope, the doctor will assess the condition of your ear. This will allow the doctor to see if you have fluid behind your eardrum or any redness indicating inflammation or infection. Sometimes with an ear infection, the doctor can see areas of dullness or redness, air bubbles or fluid behind the eardrum. Other tests may be used, if indicated, including an audiogram to check for hearing loss and a tympanogram to see if the Eustachian tube and eardrum are working properly.

If an ear infection is suspected, consult a physician. The doctor will probably use an otoscope (a lighted instrument designed to examine the ear through the ear canal) to examine the ear canal and eardrum. The doctor will also examine the nose and throat. The bony part of the skull behind the ears (the mastoid) will be examined, too. Pain, redness, or tenderness of the mastoid can be a sign of a serious infection.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.