We start with the question You probably asked Yourself many times – how to diagnose Ear Infection or Acute Otitis Media? An ear infection is generally shorthand for acute otitis media. Your doctor likely makes this diagnosis and answers the question only if he or she sees signs of fluid in the middle ear, if there are signs or symptoms of an infection, and if symptoms started relatively suddenly.
If the diagnosis is otitis media with effusion, the doctor has found evidence of fluid in the middle ear, but there are presently no signs or symptoms of infection.
If the doctor makes a diagnosis of chronic suppurative otitis media, he or she has found that a long-term ear infection resulted in tearing of the eardrum. This is usually associated with pus draining from the ear.
Your doctor can usually diagnose an ear infection or another condition based on the symptoms you describe by using a lighted instrument (an otoscope) to look at the ears, throat, and nasal passage.
Table of Contents
Instruments, methods, and tests used to diagnose Ear Infection/Acute Otitis Media
A wait-and-see method
Symptoms of ear infections usually improve within the first couple of days, and most infections clear up on their own within one to two weeks without any treatment.
An instrument called a pneumatic otoscope is often the only specialized tool a doctor needs to diagnose an ear infection. With this instrument, the doctor looks in the ear and judge whether there is fluid behind the eardrum.
With the pneumatic otoscope, the doctor gently puffs air against the eardrum. Normally, this puff of air would cause the eardrum to move.
If the middle ear is filled with fluid, your doctor will observe little to no movement of the eardrum.
This test is used to measure the movement of the eardrum. The device seals off the ear canal and adjusts air pressure in it, which causes the eardrum to move.
The device measures how well the eardrum moves and provides an indirect measure of pressure within the middle ear.
This test measures how much sound is reflected back from the eardrum, and it’s an indirect measure of fluids in the middle ear.
Normally, the eardrum absorbs most of the sound, however, the more pressure there is from fluid in the middle ear, the more sound the eardrum will reflect.
The doctor may use a tiny tube that pierces the eardrum to drain fluid from the middle ear, a procedure called tympanocentesis.
The fluid is tested for viruses and bacteria. This can be helpful if an infection hasn’t responded well to previous treatments.
A hearing test may be ordered in cases of repeat ear infections or if there are signs of hearing impairment, such as speaking in a louder voice, sitting closer to the television, or turning up the volume.
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