by Ronnenberg A

Infections can affect the outer, middle or 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.

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 the sinuses, nose, or throat can pass up this tube to the ear. This is where the infection starts to grow.

Children are more likely to get ear infections than adults because they have:

  • Shorter tubes, which makes it easier for infections to travel up to the ear.
  • Larger adenoids in the back of the nose, which can block the tube to the ear and make it hard for fluid to drain
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?


Acute otitis media (AOM) in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed May 17, 2022.

Ear infections in children. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: Accessed May 17, 2022.

Middle ear infections. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: Accessed May 17, 2022.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kuenn, MD
  • Review Date: 11/2021
  • Update Date: 05/18/2022