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How To Check For Ear Infection Without Otoscope

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How Ear Infections Start

How to perform Otoscopy (Ear Exam)

Ear infections often begin after a child has a cold, sore throat, or upper respiratory infection caused by common bacteria or viruses.

Behind your eardrum is a small chamber called the middle ear. Connected to the middle ear is your eustachian tube, which drains fluid into the back of your throat and ventilates the middle ear space. An infection can cause the eustachian tube to swell and block fluid from draining or allow negative pressure to build up.

As the fluid builds up in the middle ear, viruses or bacteria can grow, causing an infection in the middle ear. Children have narrower and shorter eustachian tubes than adults, making them more prone to ear infections.

When To Contact A Medical Professional

Contact your provider if:

  • You have swelling behind the ear.
  • Your symptoms get worse, even with treatment.
  • You have high fever or severe pain.
  • Severe pain suddenly stops, which may indicate a ruptured eardrum.
  • New symptoms appear, especially severe headache, dizziness, swelling around the ear, or twitching of the face muscles.

Let the provider know right away if a child younger than 6 months has a fever, even if the child doesn’t have other symptoms.

How To Tell If You Have A Middle Ear Infection

Infections in the middle ear, also called acute otitis media, are the most common ear infection especially in children.

Pressure in the middle ear is regulated by the Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the area of the throat behind the nose. The Eustachian tubes maintain a clean and dry airspace within the middle ear by ventilating and draining out accumulated fluids or debris. When airflow is restricted to the middle ear , fluid can build up and the middle ear becomes susceptible to infection.

The most common cause of middle ear infections is the common cold or flu. So if youve just had a cold or the flu and are now experiencing ear pain its likely you have a middle ear infection. If youve had ear pain for more than 2 days you should see a doctor your infection may be bacterial and require antibiotics.

Other causes of middle ear infection may include:

Symptoms of Middle Ear Infection:Ear infection signs can be different when comparing children and adults. The symptoms of ear infection in adults are:

  • Sharp and sudden pains in the ear
  • Dull and continuous pains in the ear
  • A sharp stabbing pain with immediate warm discharge from the ear canal
  • Feeling like your ear is clogged

In children, the symptoms are:

  • Constant pulling, tugging, or scratching the ears
  • Consistently poor sleep
  • Regular fever of 100 °F or higher
  • Difficulty responding to sounds

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Ear Infection Home Remedies

There are some home remedies to help your childs ear pain. Ear drops can bring relief, but these should not be used without checking with your childs doctor first. Over-the-counter pain and fever medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are used. However, you should never give aspirin to children. Warm washcloths applied to the outside of the ear may be helpful in reliving some pain. Gargling with salt water may help soothe an aggravated throat and possibly clear the Eustachian tubes. A few drops of warmed olive oil in the ears may soothe ear pain, but it is suggested to speak with your childs doctor beforehand.

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When Should I Call The Doctor About An Ear Infection

Middle ear infections
  • You or your child develops a stiff neck.
  • Your child acts sluggish, looks or acts very sick, or does not stop crying despite all efforts.
  • Your childs walk is not steady he or she is physically very weak.
  • You or your childs ear pain is severe.
  • You or your child has a fever over 104° F .
  • Your child is showing signs of weakness in their face .
  • You see bloody or pus-filled fluid draining from the ear.
  • The fever remains or comes back more than 48 hours after starting an antibiotic.
  • Ear pain is not better after three days of taking an antibiotic.
  • Ear pain is severe.
  • You have any questions or concerns.

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A Smart Otoscope To Better Diagnose Ear Infections

Lisa Eddy HeadWay Winter 2021

Because ear infections can be complicated to diagnose, otolaryngologisthead and neck surgeon James Clark occasionally sees patients who have been misdiagnosed with acute otitis media or otitis media with effusion . After two or three courses of antibiotics, they come to a specialist like me because they are not improving, says Clark.

To help alleviate the complexity of accurately identifying these conditions, in early 2019, Clark set out with Therese Canares, director of pediatric emergency medicine digital health innovation at Johns Hopkins, to develop a smart otoscope to diagnose AOM and OME using artificial intelligence. I thought using technology might offer a solution, says Clark.

The clinicians joined a program at the Johns Hopkins Technology Innovation Center that matches researchers and health care providers with business, design and technical experts to develop software for improved patient care. Clark and Canares labeled 100 images of healthy and infected ear drums so that a computer using machine-learning could create an artificial intelligence algorithm. Once complete, initial testing showed the algorithm detects ear infections at the same sensitivity and specificity as a fellowship-trained otolaryngologist.

Clogged Ears: Causes Symptoms And Treatment Options

In this article:

It is common for people to experience sudden stuffiness in their ears, which is often short-lived. More often than not, you may experience this stuffiness along with diminished hearing, pain, and imbalance, on account of a clogged ear or Eustachian tube dysfunction.

Almost anyone can suffer from a clogged ear, but it affects children more frequently than adults, especially during a common cold or nasal allergy.

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When Should I Return To My Healthcare Provider For A Follow

Your healthcare provider will let you know when you need to return for a follow-up visit. At that visit, you or your childs eardrum will be examined to be certain that the infection is going away. Your healthcare provider may also want to test you or your child’s hearing.

Follow-up exams are very important, especially if the infection has caused a hole in the eardrum.

What Are The Symptoms Of Otitis Externa

Earwax Removal Using a Digital Otoscope at Home
  • Itching inside the ear
  • Pain inside the ear that gets worse when you tug on the outer ear
  • Sensation that the ear is blocked or full
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Redness or swelling of the skin around the ear

Recurring ear infections are also possible. Without treatment, infections can continue to occur or persist.

Bone and cartilage damage are also possible due to untreated swimmerâs ear. If left untreated, ear infections can spread to the base of your skull, brain, or cranial nerves. Diabetics, older adults, and those with conditions that weaken the immune system are at higher risk for such dangerous complications.

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Use Your Hands To Hold Your Ear Open

Next, gently hold your ear open by placing your hand on the side of it. Make sure that you dont press too hard in this position so that the eardrum doesnt rupture and cause pain and bleeding in the ear canal. If you are using an otoscope, place the end of the instrument against your ear to keep it steady while looking into the opening of your ear with only your eyes.

Treating Outer Ear Infections

The outer ear should be carefully cleaned. That should be followed by the application of antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory medications on your ear.

Antibiotics may be prescribed if your doctor determines that the infection is bacterial.

If the infection is fungal, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal medication.

If you have a viral infection, you may simply need to tend to the irritation on your ear and wait for the infection to resolve itself. Depending on the type of virus involved, more specialized treatment may be necessary.

To help prevent an ear infection of any kind, follow these tips:

  • Make sure you dry your ears completely after swimming or taking a shower.
  • Try quitting smoking, and limit or avoid secondhand smoke when possible.
  • Manage your allergies by avoiding triggers and keeping up with allergy medications.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly, and try to limit contact with people who have colds or other upper respiratory problems.
  • Make sure your vaccines are up to date.

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Treating Middle Ear Infections

You may be prescribed antibiotics. Some antibiotics may be taken orally. Others can be applied directly to the site of the infection with ear drops. Medications for pain, such as over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications may also be used to manage your symptoms.

If youre still experiencing cold or allergy symptoms, you may be advised to take a , nasal steroids, or an antihistamine.

Another helpful technique is called autoinsufflation. Its meant to help clear your eustachian tubes. You do this by squeezing your nose, closing your mouth, and gently exhaling. This can send air through the eustachian tubes to help drain them.

Should I Worry If My Child Has Ear Fluid


Most fluid goes away on its own in weeks or months, especially if it was caused by a cold or an ear infection. OME is of more concern if it lasts more than 3 months or when your child has other problems that could be made worse by persistent ear fluid . Your doctor should check the ears periodically until the fluid is gone.

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How Do You Know If You Have An Ear Infection

Diagnostic. If the eardrum moves easily, you may not have a middle ear infection, or at least it may not be serious. If the eardrum barely moves, it suggests that there is fluid pressing against it from the inside. Another test used to diagnose and assess a possible ear infection is called tympanometry.

How do you know if you have an otoscope infection?

The last photo reveals an ear tube that has blocked prematurely and the ear is infected again. Otitis externa swimmers ear This is an infection of the ear canal itself. Notice the swelling in the ear canal.

Is it possible to diagnose an ear infection without seeing the eardrum?

Additionally, people can have a lot of earwax in their ears, completely obscuring the eardrum. There is absolutely no way to accurately diagnose an ear infection without seeing the eardrum as simple as that. Not all clinicians are qualified to remove excess earwax from the ears, but they should be.

How do you know if there is fluid in the ear?

They then need to determine if fluid has built up in your ear, which they will most likely find out by looking into your ears with an otoscope. This can also be done electronically, through the use of an acoustic reflectometer or tympanogram.

What Causes An Ear Infection

An ear infection usually is caused by bacteria and often begins after a child has a sore throat, cold, or other upper respiratory infection. If the upper respiratory infection is bacterial, these same bacteria may spread to the middle ear if the upper respiratory infection is caused by a virus, such as a cold, bacteria may be drawn to the microbe-friendly environment and move into the middle ear as a secondary infection. Because of the infection, fluid builds up behind the eardrum.

The ear has three major parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear, also called the pinna, includes everything we see on the outsidethe curved flap of the ear leading down to the earlobebut it also includes the ear canal, which begins at the opening to the ear and extends to the eardrum. The eardrum is a membrane that separates the outer ear from the middle ear.

The middle earwhich is where ear infections occuris located between the eardrum and the inner ear. Within the middle ear are three tiny bones called the malleus, incus, and stapes that transmit sound vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear. The bones of the middle ear are surrounded by air.

The inner ear contains the labyrinth, which help us keep our balance. The cochlea, a part of the labyrinth, is a snail-shaped organ that converts sound vibrations from the middle ear into electrical signals. The auditory nerve carries these signals from the cochlea to the brain.

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What Is An Inner Ear Infection

Otitis interna, is the medical terminology of the inner ear infection. It is a disease that involves inflammation of the inner ear .

Now, this may become pretty painful, if proper care is not given, especially during the initial stages. Thus, if you are an adult having an ear infection, it is advised that you give serious attention to its symptoms and see a doctor as early as possible.

A condition diagnosed as an inner ear infection may actually be a case of inflammation and not an actual infection. An inner ear infection is inflammation or irritation of the parts of the ear called labyrinthitis, which is responsible for balance.

When Should You Use An Otoscope

Otoscopy (Ear Examination) – ENT

You can use an otoscope or practice otoscopy at home if you notice the following symptoms in your child:

  • Pain in the ear
  • Infection or irritation in the ear
  • Loss of hearing
  • Ringing sound in the ears
  • Any ear-related infection or symptom

With the help of an otoscope, you can diagnose the ear and see if the infection is mild or severe. Moreover, you can check the working condition of the ear.

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Home Remedies For Ear Pain

Before antibiotics, parents used home remedies to treat the pain of ear infections. Now, with current concern over antibiotic overuse, many of these simple remedies are again popular:

  • Parents can press a warm water bottle or warm bag of salt against the ear. Such old-fashioned remedies may help to ease ear pain.
  • Due to the high risk of burns, ear candles should not be used to remove wax from ears. These candles are not safe or effective for treatment of ear infections or other ear conditions.
  • Researchers are studying the protective value of probiotics especially lactobacilli strains such as acidophilus. But it is important not to give your child any herbal remedies or dietary supplements without consulting with the pediatrician.

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How Is An Ear Infection Diagnosed

Doctors diagnose ear infections by looking at the ear drum with a special light called an otoscope. They look for fluid in the middle ear, at the colour and position of the ear drum, and monitor the pressure in the middle ear. Common viral infections can make the ear drum look red, but antibiotics are not needed.

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How It Is Done

If you are going to examine a young child, have the child lie down with his or her head turned to the side, or have the child sit on an adult’s lap and rest his or her head on the adult’s chest. Older children or adults can sit with their head tilted slightly toward the opposite shoulder. Sitting is the best position for identifying otitis media with effusion .

Select the largest viewing piece that will fit easily into the ear canal, and attach it to the otoscope.

If the person is only having problems with one ear, examining the other ear first may make it easier to determine what is different about the affected ear.

When checking the ear of a child older than 12 months or an adult, hold the otoscope in one hand and use your free hand to pull the outer ear gently up and back. This straightens the ear canal and improves visualization. In babies younger than 12 months, gently pull the outer ear down and back.

Now, slowly insert the pointed end of the viewing piece into the ear canal while looking into the otoscope. The sides of the ear canal can be quite sensitive, so try not to put pressure on the ear canal. It may help to steady your hand on the person’s face so your hand moves along with their head in case they move quickly.

Do not move the otoscope forward without looking into it. Make sure you can see the path through the ear canal. You do not need to insert the viewing piece very far into the earthe light extends well beyond the viewing tip.

When To See Your Healthcare Provider

Childhood Diseases â On a Mission to Educate: Ear Infections â Steemit

Children younger than three months of age need to see a healthcare provider at the first sign of ear infection.

Older children should be seen if they have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A fever of 102.2 degrees or higher
  • Discharge leaking from their ear
  • The symptoms get worse or do not resolve within three days

Ear infection in adults may signify a more serious problem and should be checked by a healthcare provider. If the infection comes and goes, schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist, a healthcare provider who specializes in ear, nose, and throat conditions.

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Where Can I Find Additional Information About Ear Infections

The NIDCD maintains a directory of organizations that provide information on the normal and disordered processes of hearing, balance, smell, taste, voice, speech, and language.

Use the following keywords to help you search for organizations that can answer questions and provide printed or electronic information on ear infections:

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