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Middle Ear Problems

What is the middle ear?

This drawing shows the various parts of the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear.



I was told that my child has middle ear fluid. Does this mean he has an ear infection?


Fluid in the middle ear starts out as a sterile fluid. An ear infection occurs when the sterile fluid becomes infected with bacteria. Some children have middle ear fluid without any ear infection.

What are some signs and symptoms of ear infection?

These signs may be an indication of ear infection:

  • Pulling on the ear
  • Pain in the ear
  • Fever or cold
  • Hearing loss

Will my child develop hearing loss from middle ear fluid or an ear infection?

Not necessarily. It depends on the child and the type of middle ear problem.

How can I tell if my child has a hearing loss?

These behaviours may be signs of hearing loss:

  • Your child doesn’t seem to hear as well as usual.
  • Your child doesn’t seem to pay attention.
  • Your child starts to develop speech later than other children.
  • Your child begins to speak more loudly all the time.
  • Your child likes turning up the television more loudly than other members of the family.

I think my child has a middle ear problem. What should I do?

See your doctor right away if you think your child has an ear infection.

  • An infected ear can usually be treated with medicine prescribed by your doctor.
  • Your doctor might send your child to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
  • A child with a middle ear problem may need a hearing test. The hearing test will show you if there is any hearing loss.
  • The best person to see for a hearing test is an audiologist, who is specially trained to test young children’s hearing.

Download the Middle Ear Problems pamphlet (PDF).