Testing & Diagnosis for Otitis Media in Children


While any child may develop an ear infection, some factors increase your child's risk of developing ear infections.

  • being around someone who smokes
  • family history of ear infections
  • a poor immune system
  • spending time in a daycare setting
  • absence of breastfeeding
  • having a cold
  • being bottle-fed while lying on his back

What are the symptoms of otitis media?

The following are the most common symptoms of otitis media. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • unusual irritability
  • difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
  • tugging or pulling at one or both ears
  • fever
  • fluid draining from ear(s)
  • loss of balance
  • hearing difficulties
  • ear pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • decreased appetite
  • congestion

The symptoms of otitis media may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

In addition to taking a complete medical history and physical examination, your child's physician will inspect the outer ear(s) and eardrum(s) using an otoscope. The otoscope is a lighted instrument that allows the physician to see inside the ear. A pneumatic otoscope blows a puff of air into the ear to test eardrum movement.

Tympanometry is a test that can be performed in most physicians' offices to help determine how the middle ear is functioning. It doesn't determine if your child is hearing or not, but helps to detect any changes in pressure in the middle ear. Your doctor also might perform a hearing test, if your child has frequent ear infections.