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Otitis Media With Effusion

Otitis media with effusion is fluid in the space behind the eardrum (middle ear). This condition occurs when a blockage of the tube that connects the throat and middle ear (eustachian tube) prevents fluid from draining normally out of the middle ear space and prevents air from entering the middle ear.

Fluid in the middle ear may:

  • Cause sounds to be muffled.
  • Cause mild discomfort. The pain usually increases with changes in atmospheric pressure, such as increasing cabin pressure when an airplane is coming down to land.
  • Create an environment for the growth of viruses or bacteria, which may cause infection. But fluid in the middle ear does not always mean that an infection is present.

The body usually reabsorbs the fluid that is behind the eardrum within weeks. As the fluid is reabsorbed, hearing gradually returns to normal. If fluid is still present in the middle ear after a few months, or if it is accompanied by prolonged fever and other symptoms, then antibiotic treatment may be needed.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Charles M. Myer, III, MD - Otolaryngology
Last Revised September 10, 2012

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.