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Complications of Ear Infections - Topic Overview

Complications from ear infections are rare, but they can arise. Some problems that can occur include:

  • Trouble hearing. Hearing problems are usually mild to moderate and are usually temporary. Long-lasting hearing loss is rare. But some children may have problems learning to talk and to understand speech if they have repeat ear infections.
  • Rupture of the eardrum. If fluid continues to build up in the middle ear, the eardrum may burst. This leaves a small hole that often heals within 2 weeks.

Another complication of acute ear infections is ongoing inflammation of the middle ear, a condition called chronic suppurative otitis media. The major symptom of this condition is repeat or ongoing drainage of pus from the ear through a small hole in the eardrum. Many children with chronic suppurative otitis media have some hearing loss. Antibiotic therapy is the usual treatment for this condition.

Recommended Related to Ear Infection

Could Your Child Have an Ear Infection?

Even newbie parents can spot diaper rash or a runny nose with no problem, but ear infections may come with only a whisper of symptoms. Yet three-quarters of children will get one by age 3. "An ear infection happens when you get infected fluid or pus behind the eardrum," says Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP. She is a pediatrician in Atlanta and editor of American Academy of Pediatrics Baby & Child Health. The most common cause? Colds. When secretions get trapped in the middle ear, viruses or bacteria...

Read the Could Your Child Have an Ear Infection? article > >

The following complications may also develop if there are repeat ear infections:

  • Tissue growth behind the eardrum (cholesteatoma). If the tissue grows large enough, it can block the middle ear and affect hearing. Surgery is necessary to remove the growth.
  • Damage to the tiny bones in the middle ear

Rare complications include infection in the:

These problems are rare, and they are becoming even more rare.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 10, 2012
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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