Reviewed by Dr. Ramakrishnan

There are many similar signs and symptoms of ear infections among infants or toddlers and children, teens or adults.


Infants and Toddlers

  • Pulling or scratching at the ear (with other symptoms)
  • Crying and irritability
  • Hearing and speech problems
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Ear drainage

Young Children, Teens and Adults

  • Earache
  • Feeling of fullness or pressure
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Hearing and speech problems
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Fever
  • Ear drainage



A health care provider can diagnose ear infections after using an otoscope to look in the ears. An otoscope is a very small microscope with a flashlight that can look inside the ear. It helps the provider look for redness and fluid behind the eardrum. It can also use gentle pressure to make the eardrum move in a process called pneumatic otoscopy. If it doesn’t move and it is red, then the ear is likely infected. If it doesn’t move, but there is no sign of inflammation, there may be fluid in the middle ear called an effusion.

Sometimes providers will use an audiogram to test for hearing loss and a tympanogram to measure air pressure in the middle ear. This shows if the eustachian tube is working correctly and if the eardrum can move.

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