Ear infection: Tests and diagnosis

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Ear infection is an infection affecting the middle ear, caused by viruses or bacteria.

If you report to your doctor that you are suffering from an ear infection, he or she is likely to perform tests based on the symptoms you are experiencing to determine whether you are suffering from an ear infection or any other problem. The doctor will use a lighted device to check the affected regions i.e. the ears, the nasal passages and the throat, during the physical examination. Additionally, he or she will also use a stethoscope to check the victim’s breathing.

The tests to diagnose the condition include:

  • Pneumatic otoscope. The pneumatic otoscope is a specialized tool required to diagnose an ear infection. This device will allow the doctor to look into the ear and determine the amount of liquid left in the middle ear. The ear_infection infant doctor will puff air gently against the ear drum while using the pneumatic otoscope. The puff of air will normally cause the eardrum to move, however, if fluid is accumulated behind the eardrum, it will simply block the air resulting in little or no movement.
  • If the infection does not respond to the treatments provided previously or if the infections lead to persistent complications, your doctor may perform further tests to inspect the problem:
  1. Tympanometry. Diagnostic tests will measure the eardrum movement. A device will be used which seal the ear canal and adjust its air will pressure to cause the eardrum to move. The device therefore provides an indirect measure of the pressure inside the middle ear by measuring how well the eardrum moves.
  2. Acoustic Reflectometry.  This part of the examination will measure the sound reflected from the eardrum. If fluids are present, the sound emitted from the device will simply reflect back from the blockage—thus indirectly measuring the fluids in the ear. The eardrum is designed to absorb most of the sound; however, the more fluids there are in the eardrum, the higher the pressure buildup, thus allowing more sound to be reflected back.
  3. Tympanocentesis. This procedure is conducted rarely in patients where the doctor uses a tiny tube to drain off the fluids in the middle ear. This test is beneficial in those treatments that are conducted because previous treatments were ineffective, the test will use the fluid taken out to determine the infectious virus/bacteria that has caused the congestion.
  4. Other tests. You may be referred to an audiologist, a hearing specialist, if your child is suffering from persistent symptoms of the infections that are not responding to treatment. You may also have to visit a developmental or speech therapist to perform tests for speech abilities, hearing, developmental abilities, responsiveness and language comprehension.

Additional Training

This amount of detail pertaining to ear infections is not covered in any first aid program. However, to learn about serious injuries, managing fever’s and other childcare emergencies enrol in workplace approved first aid programs.

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  • All firstaidcprhamilton.ca content is reviewed by a medical professional and / sourced to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

  • We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable websites, academic research institutions and medical articles.

  • If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please contact us through our contact us page.