Ear infections are the most common reason parents bring their child to a doctor. Three out of four children will have at least one ear infection by their third birthday. Adults can also get ear infections, but they are less common.
The infection usually affects the middle ear and is called otitis media. The tubes inside the ears become clogged with fluid and mucus. This can affect hearing, because sound cannot get through all that fluid.
If your child isn’t old enough to say “My ear hurts,” here are a few things to look for:
- Tugging at ears
- Crying more than usual
- Fluid draining from the ear
- Trouble sleeping
- Balance difficulties
- Hearing problems
Your health care provider will diagnose an ear infection by looking inside the ear with an instrument called an otoscope.
Often, ear infections go away on their own. Your health care provider may recommend pain relievers. Severe infections and infections in young babies may require antibiotics.
Children who get infections often may need surgery to place small tubes inside their ears. The tubes relieve pressure in the ears so that the child can hear again.