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Middle ear infection, otitis media

Middle ear infection, otitis media

This animation shows the symptoms and treatment of secretory otitis media.



otitis media, disease, ear infection, ear, pus, paracentesis of the eardrum, hearing loss, pain, symptoms, tympanic cavity, eardrum, outer ear, middle ear, inner ear, Eustachian tube, hearing, hammer, anvil, stirrup, bacterium, virus, human, biology

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  • outer ear - Contains the auricle, the outer auditory canal and the eardrum.
  • middle ear - Contains the tympanic cavity and the ossicles. It is connected with the pharyngeal cavity by the Eustachian tube.
  • inner ear - Has a vital role in balancing and hearing.
  • vestibulocochlear nerve - The 8th cranial nerve, carrying signals from the semicircular canals and cochlea of the inner ear to the brain. This nerve also carries information responsible for balancing.
  • Eustachian tube - Connects the nasal cavity with the middle ear (tympanic cavity). It allows the pressure to equalise between the middle ear and the outside world.

Tympanic cavity

  • eardrum - A membrane that separates the external ear from the middle ear. Sound waves make it vibrate; this vibration is transmitted to the ossicles.
  • hammer - The outermost of the ossicles; it transmits the vibration of the eardrum to the anvil.
  • anvil - The central ossicle; it transmits the vibration of the hammer to the stirrup.
  • stirrup - The innermost ear bone; it transmits the vibration of the anvil to the cochlea. It is the smallest bone of the human body.

Secretory otitis media

  • eardrum - In case of an acute inflammation, the tympanic cavity fills with fluid and pus which press the eardrum. Thus the eardrum is not able to vibrate normally, which causes a loss of hearing.
  • normal hearing
  • muffled hearing

Ruptured eardrum

Paracentesis of the eardrum



Infection and inflammation of the middle ear, known as Otitis media, is usually caused by bacteria and sometimes by viruses. The fluid and pus that collects in the inflamed tympanic cavity press against the cavity wall and the eardrum, causing a sharp pain. The tense eardrum is incapable of being properly vibrated by sound waves, resulting in muffled hearing. A middle ear infection can also cause dizziness and tinnitus, or ringing.

If not treated properly, the eardrum may rupture, possibly leading to a permanent loss of hearing. Proper medical care is therefore essential with antibiotics to kill pathogenic bacteria.

In serious cases, the only effective treatment is paracentesis of the eardrum, in which a small incision is made in the eardrum, permitting the drainage of pus from the inflamed middle ear. The tension of the eardrum, therefore, decreases, reducing pain. This incision heals quickly.

A middle ear infection may have serious complications when left untreated. It may spread to the inner ear, cranial bones or the brain, a development which may be life-threatening.
It is therefore very important to consult a doctor when we notice the first symptoms, instead of attempting home remedies.

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