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Ear Infections - Exams and Tests

Middle ear infections are usually diagnosed using a health history, a physical exam, and an ear exam.

The doctor uses a pneumatic otoscope to look at the eardrum for signs of an ear infection or fluid buildup. For example, the doctor can see if the eardrum moves freely when the pneumatic otoscope pushes air into the ear.

Recommended Related to Ear Infection

Understanding Swimmer's Ear -- Treatment

Swimmer's ear is usually not a dangerous condition and often clears up within a few days after starting treatment. However, if untreated, it can become extremely and surprisingly painful. In rare cases, especially in diabetes patients or anyone with problems with their immune system, the infection may be more difficult to treat and can spread and damage underlying bones and cartilage, requiring hospitalization. Your doctor may gently clean your ear with a cotton-tipped probe or a suction device...

Read the Understanding Swimmer's Ear -- Treatment article > >

Other tests may include:

  • Tympanometry, which measures how the eardrum responds to a change of air pressure inside the ear.
  • Hearing tests. These tests are recommended for children who have had fluid in one or both ears (otitis media with effusion) for a total of 3 months. The tests may be done sooner if hearing loss is suspected.
  • Tympanocentesis. This test can remove fluid if it has stayed behind the eardrum (chronic otitis media with effusion) or if infection continues even with antibiotics.
  • Blood tests, which are done if there are signs of immune problems.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 30, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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