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Ear problems

Middle ear infection (otitis media)

Otitis media is an infection in the middle part of the ear. Anyone can get middle ear infections, but they are most common in young children.


Infection can lead to a buildup of fluid in the middle part of the ear, which makes the eardrum bulge outwards, causing earache.

The fluid can also cause a slight hearing loss, as the ossicles (the tiny bones in your ear) won’t be able to move freely and pass sound waves to the inner ear.

In severe cases the eardrum can tear, with a sudden discharge of pus and blood into the outer ear canal.


Middle ear infections are caused when a bacterial or viral infection spreads from your nose or throat into your ear.


Most middle ear infections clear up within a few days to a week without the need for treatment. But get advice from your GP anyway, because, although rare, complications from an ear infection can be serious.

If there’s no improvement after several days, or if you’re very unwell, you may be prescribed antibiotics. If so, you must take the entire course.

Find out more about ear infections on the NHS website.