What is otitis media?

Also known as: middle ear infection, acute otitis media, AOM.

When the space behind the eardrum or middle ear (where the tiny bones pick up the vibrations of speech and relay them onto the inner ear for transmission to the brain for interpretation), gets infected, it’s known as otitis media. The middle ear is connected to the back of the throat (nasopharynx) by a tube called the Eustachian tube which allows for equalization of the pressure, (and keeps the air fresh), between the middle ear and outside. When a single episode of infection occurs it’s called acute otitis media. If it happens more often it’s called recurrent otitis media. If fluid collects in the middle ear is known as acute otitis media with effusion. If fluid remains in the middle ear for a long time or recurs even without infection it’s called chronic otitis media with effusion. Otitis media often affects children with 5 out of 6 children having at least one ear infection by the age of 3 years.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 1/29/2019 3:21:13 PM

© 2020 Nicklaus Children's Hospital. All Rights Reserved.