What are the symptoms of an ear infection?

Irene Hendrickson, MD
When it works normally, the middle-ear chamber passes air and small amounts of fluid through the Eustachian tube, which works as a pressure equalizer for the middle ear. Respiratory problems, such as allergies or colds, may cause congestion within the tube and cause it to swell shut. The result is fluid and air build-up behind the eardrum. As pressure grows, the eardrum becomes swollen.

The signs and symptoms of ear infection may include:
  • moderate to severe ear pain
  • dizziness
  • fever
  • fluid leaking from the ear
  • hearing difficulties in affected ear
  • irritability
  • nausea and vomiting
As pressure grows, the eardrum becomes irritated and swollen (or "bulging") and the fluid may become infected with bacteria.
This content originally appeared online at UCLA Health.
Symptoms of an ear infection include:

For adults:
  • Ear pain, pressure, or popping
  • Trouble hearing
  • Fever
For children:
  • Fussiness
  • Tugging at ear
  • Trouble eating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble hearing
  • Fever
If too much fluid builds up in the ear, the eardrum may burst. This is the body's way of relieving the pressure in the ear. If this happens, you may notice fluid or blood draining out of the ear.
Children and adults with an ear infection may show any of these symptoms in addition to the ache in one or both ears:
  • dizziness
  • ringing in the ears
  • fullness in the ears
  • hearing loss or muffled sounds
  • fever
  • headache
  • nausea or vomiting
Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine

An acute ear infection is characterized by earache or irritability; history of recent upper respiratory infection or allergy; red, opaque, bulging eardrum; and fever and chills. Chronic inflammation of the middle ear is characterized by painless hearing loss and a dull, immobile eardrum (tympanic membrane). Since an ear infection can be quite serious, it is necessary for any individual with symptoms of either an acute or chronic ear infection to be seen by a physician.

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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.