Ear Infection | Diagnosis & Treatment

How are ear infections diagnosed?

Your child’s doctor will take a medical history and examine the outer ear and eardrum using an otoscope. This is a lighted instrument that allows the physician to see inside the ear. An eardrum that looks bulging and red is likely infected.

The doctor may also use a pneumatic otoscope, which blows a puff of air into the ear canal to test eardrum movement. If the eardrum doesn’t move easily back and forth, it could be a sign of fluid or negative pressure in the middle ear space.  

If the diagnosis is still not clear, your doctor may use a test called tympanometry. This test uses air pressure and sound tones to measure the flexibility of eardrum at various pressures. Negative pressure in the middle ear, or middle ear fluid, decrease the motion of the ear drum, which can be detected by tympanometry.

How are ear infections treated?

Your child’s doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics by mouth to treat the infection and may also give your child pain medicine.

If your child gets ear infections several times a year, your child's doctor may suggest a procedure to place small tubes in the eardrums to help drain the fluid and relieve the pressure from the middle ear.

Your child's doctor may also recommend removing the adenoids (lymph tissue located in the space above the soft roof of the mouth) if they are infected. This helps some children with chronic ear infections.