Diagnosis of Middle Ear Infection
by Alayne Ronnenberg, ScD
You will be asked about your child's symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will ask about signs such as ear pain or drainage. An ear infection may be suspected based on symptoms. A scope may be used to look inside the ear. An infection will cause redness, swelling, or pus around the eardrum. A small puff of air may also be passed into the ear. The eardrum should move a bit with the air. Fluid or swelling around the eardrum will make the eardrum stiff. This would suggest an infection.
It may be hard to tell the difference between a new infection or one that has lasted some time. Treatment can differ between theses types.
Other tests may include:
Acute otitis media (AOM) in Adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-otitis-media-in-adults. Updated September 4, 2019. Accessed December 5, 2019.
Acute otitis media (AOM) in Children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname.... Updated September 4, 2019. Accessed December 5, 2019.
Ear infections in children. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated May 12, 2017. Accessed December 5, 2019.
Lieberthal AS, Carroll AE, et al. The diagnosis and management of acute otitis media. Pediatrics. 2013 Mar;131(3):e964-e999
Middle ear infections. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/Pages/Middle-Ear-Infections.aspx. Updated February 22, 2013. Accessed December 5, 2019.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole S. Meregian, PA
Last Updated: 8/25/2020
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