Infections can affect the outer, middle or the inner part of the ear. Middle ear infection is the most common type. The middle ear is just behind the ear drum.

Ear infections may begin after a cold or other virus that causes nasal problems. Some can start without a known cause. Children are more likely to have ear infections than adults.

The Middle Ear
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Ear infections start when bacteria or viruses get inside the ear. A tube connects the inner ear to space behind the nose. Viruses or bacteria that cause an infection in sinuses, nose, or throat can pass up this tube to the ear. There the infection can grow. Children are more likely to get ear infections than adults because:

  • Children have shorter tubes from ear to behind the nose. This makes it easier for infections to travel up to the ear.
  • Children have larger adenoids than do adults. Adenoids sit in the back of the nose. They can block the tube to the ear when they swell. It will make it hard for fluid to drain from the ear.
What are the risk factors for ear infections?What are the symptoms of ear infections?How is ear infection diagnosed?What are the treatments for ear infection?Are there screening tests for ear infections?How can I reduce my risk of ear infection?What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?Where can I get more information about ear infections?

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole S. Meregian, PA
  • Review Date: 09/2019 -
  • Update Date: 12/12/2019 -