Assessment of the ear with an otoscope will reveal a red, bulging tympanic membrane due to inflammation.
Patients with otitis media will experience inner ear pain or otalgia. Pain may also be referred down the side of the patient’s face, near the temporomandibular joint.
Infants and young children may be seen pulling on their affected ear when experiencing pain. They may roll their head from side to side. Loss of appetite may also occur, as sucking and chewing can aggravate inner ear pain.
Because otitis media is caused by an infection, patients will present with a fever. Patients with otitis media may also experience vomiting and diarrhea.
Patients who have an upper respiratory infection are at an increased risk of developing a middle ear infection.
Otitis media occurs more commonly in children than adults, due to difference in the anatomy of the ear in childhood.
Middle ear infections are more common in children due to the shorter, straighter, and narrower nature of the eustachian tube in the child.
Conductive hearing loss may occur in chronic cases of otitis media. Hearing loss may be due to chronic inflammation, perforation of the tympanic membrane, or damage to the anatomy of the inner ear.
Exposure to passive smoke increases bacterial adherence in the respiratory tract and can suppress the immune system and decrease the effectiveness of protective cilia. Therefore, a child who lives with one or more people who smoke is at an increased risk of developing otitis media.
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