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Ear infection - chronic

  • Alternative Names

    Middle ear infection - chronic; Otitis media - chronic; Chronic otitis media; Chronic ear infection


    A chronic, long-term infection in the ear may have less severe symptoms than an acute infection. It may go unnoticed and untreated for a long time.

    Symptoms include:

    • Ear pain or discomfort, earache
      • Usually mild
      • May feel like pressure in the ear
    • Fever
    • Fussiness
    • Pus-like drainage from the ear
    • Hearing loss

    Note: Symptoms may be continuous or come and go, and may occur in one or both ears.

    Signs and tests

    An examination of the ear may show:

    • Dullness
    • Redness
    • Air bubbles
    • Fluid behind the eardrum
    • Draining fluid from the eardrum
    • A hole (perforation) in the eardrum
    • The eardrum bulges out or pulls back inward

    Tests may include:

    • Cultures of the fluid may show bacteria, and these bacteria may be resistant or harder to treat than the bacteria commonly involved in an acute ear infection.
    • Skull x-rays or a CT scan of the head or mastoids may show that the infection has spread beyond the middle ear.
    • Hearing tests may be needed.