Otitis media: symptoms and treatment

ear pain otitis media

Not everyone knows what it is – otitis media. This disease affects the ear of a person. It consists in acute inflammation of the tissues that make up this important sense organ. Every year thousands of people of different ages get sick. And it is well known that otitis cannot be called a harmless disease.

What is otitis media

To understand the principle of otitis, it is necessary to remember what the ear is, what is it for and how it works. In fact, the ear is not only the auricle, as someone might think. The ear has a complex system hidden inside of it, which converts sound waves into a form convenient for the human brain to perceive. However, capturing sounds is not the only function of the ears. They also perform the vestibular function and serve as a body that allows a person to maintain balance.

The three main sections of the ear – middle, outer and inner. The outer ear is the auricle itself, as well as the ear canal leading to the eardrum. Behind the eardrum is an air-filled tympanic cavity containing three ossicles, the purpose of which is to transmit and amplify sound vibrations. This area makes up the middle ear. From the middle ear, vibrations go to a special area, which is located in the temporal bone and is called the labyrinth. It contains the organ of Corti – an accumulation of nerve receptors that convert vibrations into nerve impulses. This area is called the inner ear. Also noteworthy is the Eustachian tube, the entrance of which is located behind the palatine tonsils and which leads to the tympanic cavity. Its purpose is to ventilate the tympanic cavity, as well as to adjust the pressure in the tympanic cavity to atmospheric pressure. The Eustachian tube is usually referred to as the middle ear.

It should be noted that otitis media can affect all three ear areas. Accordingly, if the disease affects the outer ear, then they talk about otitis externa, if the average otitis media is about otitis, and if the inner one is about inner otitis. In general, it is only a one-sided lesion, but with otitis media caused by infections of the upper respiratory tract, the disease can develop on both sides of the head.

Also, ear otitis is divided into three types depending on the cause of the occurrence – viral, bacterial or traumatic. External otitis can be fungal, and the most common form of the disease is bacterial.

External otitis media – symptoms, treatment

External otitis occurs as a result of infection of the skin surface of the ear with bacteria or fungi. According to statistics, approximately 10% of the world’s population has suffered from external otitis at least once in their lives.

Factors contributing to otitis in adults are:

  • hypothermia of the auricle, for example, while walking in the cold;
  • mechanical damage to the auricle;
  • removal of sulfur from the ear canal;
  • getting water, especially dirty, into the ear canal.

Bacteria and fungi “love” the ear canal for the reason that it is damp, dark and quite humid. It is an ideal breeding ground. And, probably, external otitis would be for everyone, if not such a protective feature of the organism as the formation of ear wax. Yes, earwax is not at all a useless substance that pollutes the ear canal, as many think. It performs important bactericidal functions, and therefore its removal from the ear canal can lead to otitis media. The only exceptions are cases in which sulfur is released too much, and it affects the perception of sounds.

Inflammation of the external auditory canal is usually a type of skin disease – dermatitis, candidiasis, furunculosis. Accordingly, the disease is caused by bacteria, streptococci and staphylococci, fungi of the genus Candida. In the case of furunculosis, inflammation of the sebaceous glands occurs. The main symptom of external otitis usually is pain, especially aggravated by pressure. Increased temperature with external otitis usually does not happen. Hearing loss occurs with otitis externa rarely, unless the process affects the eardrum or the ear canal is completely covered with pus. However, after recovering from otitis, the hearing is completely restored.

Diagnosis of otitis externa in adults is quite simple. In general, visual inspection by a physician is sufficient. A more detailed method for diagnosing otitis includes using an otoscope, a device that allows you to see the far end of the ear canal and eardrum. Otitis treatment is to eliminate the cause of ear inflammation. In the treatment of otitis externa in adults, antibiotics or antifungal drugs are used. A variety of antibiotic therapy should determine the doctor. In case of external otitis, ear drops are used, not pills. With the defeat of the external, not located in the ear canal of the ear tissue, used ointment. A frequent complication of otitis externa is the transition of the inflammatory process to the middle ear through the eardrum.

Otitis media

Otitis media – inflammation of the middle part of the organ of hearing. Such ear inflammation is one of the most common diseases on Earth. Every year, hundreds of millions of people get ear infections. According to various data, from 25% to 60% of people at least once in their lives have had otitis media.


In most cases, the inflammation of the middle ear is not the primary disease. Usually, it is a complication of external otitis or infectious diseases of the upper respiratory regions – tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, rhinitis, antritis, and also acute viral diseases – flu, measles, scarlet fever.

So, how does the infection get from the respiratory system to the ear? The fact is that she has a direct route there – this is the Eustachian tube. With respiratory symptoms such as sneezing or coughing, particles of mucus or sputum can be thrown through the tube into the ear. At the same time, inflammation of the eustachian tube itself (eustachitis) as well as inflammation of the middle ear can occur. When the Eustachian tube overlaps in the tympanic cavity, devoid of ventilation, stagnant processes and accumulation of fluid may occur, which leads to the multiplication of bacteria and the occurrence of the disease.

Cause of otitis media can also be a mastoiditis, allergic reactions that cause swelling of the mucous membranes.

Otitis ear has several varieties. First of all, there are chronic and acute otitis. According to the degree of development of otitis media are divided into exudative, purulent and catarrhal. Exudative ear otitis is characterized by the accumulation of fluid in the tympanic cavity. When purulent otitis of the middle ear, the appearance of pus and its accumulation is noted.

Otitis media, symptoms in adults

Symptoms in adults include primarily pain in the ear. Pain with otitis media can be acute or shooting. Sometimes the pain can be felt in the temple or the crown, it can pulsate, subside or worse. With exudative otitis media, there may be a feeling of water splashing in the ear. Sometimes there is congestion in the ear, as well as a sense of hearing your own voice (autophony) or just an indefinite noise in the ear. Often there is swelling of tissues, hearing loss, fever, headaches. However, a rise in temperature is often not a symptom of otitis, but only a symptom of an infectious disease that caused it – acute respiratory infections, an acute respiratory viral infection or flu.

The most difficult course is observed with a purulent form of otitis media. In this case, the main symptom of otitis is the discharge of pus. The drum cavity is filled with pus, and the body temperature rises to + 38-39ºС. Pus can thin the surface of the eardrum and form a hole in it, through which it leaks out. However, this process is generally favorable, as the pressure in the cavity drops, and as a result, the pain becomes less acute. The process of pus leakage takes about a week. From this point on, the temperature drops to subfebrile values ​​and wound healing begins. The total duration of the disease is 2-3 weeks with proper and timely treatment.

The chronic form of the disease is characterized by a sluggish infectious process, during which there are seasonal surges, during which the disease becomes acute.


For suspicious symptoms, you should consult a doctor. Diagnosis is carried out by an otolaryngologist. The following diagnostic feature can be used for this. If the patient of the otolaryngologist inflates his cheeks, then the immobility of the membrane indicates that no air enters the tympanic cavity from the nasopharynx and, therefore, the Eustachian tube is blocked. Inspection of the eardrum is carried out with the help of an optical device – the otoscope also helps to reveal some characteristic signs, for example, protrusion to the outside of the eardrum and its redness. For the diagnosis can also be used blood test, computed tomography, radiography.


How to treat treat a disease? Treatment of otitis media is quite difficult compared to external treatment. However, in most cases, conservative treatment is applied. First of all, with acute otitis media, it does not make sense to bury ear drops with antibacterial drugs, since they will not enter the focus of inflammation. However, with inflammation of the middle ear, the focus of which is adjacent directly to the eardrum, anti-inflammatory and analgesic drops can be instilled into the ear. They can be absorbed by the eardrum, and the substance will flow into the region of the middle part of the organ of hearing, into the tympanic cavity.

Antibiotics are the main way to treat otitis media in adults and children. In general, medications are taken in pill form. However, in case of a breakthrough of the eardrum, you can also use ear drops with antibiotics. A course of antibiotics should be prescribed by a doctor. He also chooses the type of antibiotics, since many of them have an ototoxic effect. Their use can cause irreversible loss of hearing.

The highest efficacy in otitis media of the middle ear showed a course of treatment with penicillin-type antibiotics, amoxicillins, as well as cephalosporins or macrolides. However, cephalosporin has an ototoxic effect, so it is not recommended to introduce it directly into the ear through the catheter or to bury it in the ear canal in case of damage to the eardrum. Antiseptics, such as Miramistin, can also be used for therapy.

In the treatment of otitis media often have to use painkillers. Drops with painkillers, such as lidocaine, are used to relieve pain in the middle part of the hearing organ.

In the case of perforation of the membrane, scarring stimulants are used to speed up its healing. These include the usual solution of iodine and silver nitrate 40%.

Glucocorticoids (prednisone, dexomethasone), as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be used as anti-inflammatory drugs and agents that can relieve swelling. In the presence of allergic processes or in otitis media, antihistamines are used, for example, suparastin or tavegil.

Also, for exudative otitis, drugs are taken to liquefy the exudate, for example, carbocysteine. There are also complex drugs that have several types of action, for example, Otipaks, Otinum, Otofa, Sofradeks. For purulent secretions, you should regularly clean the ear canal from pus and rinse it with a weak stream of water.

Can I warm my ear? It depends on the type of disease. In some cases, heat can accelerate the cure, and in others, on the contrary, aggravate the disease. In the purulent form of middle ear disease, heat is contraindicated, and in the catarrhal stage, heat promotes blood flow to the affected area and accelerates the patient’s recovery. Heat is also one of the most effective ways to reduce pain in otitis. However, permission to use heat can only give a doctor, self-treatment is unacceptable. In the event that heat is contraindicated, it can be replaced by physiotherapy procedures (UHF, electrophoresis).

Often resort to surgical method of treatment of the middle ear, especially in the case of a purulent version of the disease and its rapid development, threatening serious complications. This operation is called paracentesis and is aimed at removing pus from the tympanic cavity. When mastoiditis can also be an operation to drain the internal regions of the mastoid process.

Also, special catheters are used to flush and clean the Eustachian tube. Drugs can also be administered through them.

Folk remedies for the treatment of middle ear inflammation in adults can only be used with relatively mild forms of the disease and with the permission of the attending physician. Here are some recipes suitable for treating otitis media.

Infusion of propolis is wetted with cotton and injected into the area of ​​the external auditory canal. This compound has wound healing and antimicrobial properties. The tampon must be changed several times a day. Plantain juice has a similar effect, burying it in the ear in the amount of 2-3 drops per day. To get rid of infections of the nasopharynx and larynx that provoke middle ear infections, you can use chamomile, sage, and St. John’s wort rinses.


Otitis ear with proper therapy can pass, leaving no lasting effects. However, inflammation of the middle ear can cause several types of complications. First of all, the infection can spread to the inner ear and cause internal otitis media – labyrinthitis. In addition, it can cause persistent or transient hearing loss or complete deafness in one ear.

Perforation of the eardrum also leads to hearing impairment. Although, contrary to the prevailing view, the membrane can overgrow, but even after its overgrowth, the sensitivity of hearing will be permanently reduced.

Mastoiditis is accompanied by acute pain in the parotid space. It is also dangerous for its complications – a breakthrough of pus on the lining of the brain with the appearance of meningitis or in the neck.


Labyrinthitis is an inflammation of the inner ear. Labyrinthitis of all varieties of otitis represents the greatest danger. In inflammation of the inner ear, typical symptoms include hearing impairment, vestibular disorders and pain. Treatment of internal otitis is carried out only with antibiotics, no folk remedies in this case will not help.

Labyrinthitis is dangerous for hearing loss as a result of the death of the auditory nerve. Also, with internal otitis, complications such as meningitis , brain abscess, encephalitis, which can be fatal.

Otitis ear in children

Otitis in adults is much less common compared with this disease in children. This is due, firstly, to a weaker immunity of the child’s body. Therefore, infectious diseases of the upper respiratory tract are more common in children. In addition, the structural features of the auditory tube in children contribute to stagnant processes in it. She has a straight profile, and an extended lumen at her entrance makes it easier for mucus and even pieces of food or vomit to get in there (in infants).

Careful treatment of otitis media in children is very important. If the wrong treatment is carried out, the disease can become chronic and make itself felt already in adulthood with chronic outbreaks. In addition, if you do not cure otitis media in infancy, then it may face partial hearing loss, and this, in turn, leads to a delay in the child’s mental development.

Otitis prevention

Prevention includes preventing situations like overcooling of the body, first of all, the ear area, the ingress of dirty water into the ear canal area. It is necessary to treat inflammatory diseases of the upper respiratory tract, such as sinusitis, sinusitis, a> and pharyngitis. During bathing it is recommended to use a cap, and after staying in water, you should completely clear the ear canal from water. In the cold and damp period of the year when going out is recommended to wear a hat.

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