Ear infection (acute otitis media)

Otitis media

Sinus infection Infection of the pharynx Infection of the large airways Middle ear infection Infection of the tonsils Infection of the voice box Infection of the small airways Lung infection

Click on the name of the infection in the image above to find out more about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of these respiratory tract infections.

What is acute otitis media?

Otitis media is a middle ear infection. It occurs in the small space just behind the eardrum in the middle of the inner ear. It usually causes an earache.

Most middle ear infections are caused by a virus (e.g. the cold virus), with the ear infection often following after a cold or a throat infection (pharyngitis).

It is a very common infection. Every year in Australia about 1 in 10 children (particularly children younger than 4 years old) will have a middle ear infection, compared with about 1 in 100 adults.

Acute otitis media is a short-term infection. If a child or adult repeatedly gets otitis media, or if an infection does not completely heal and the swelling and redness in the ear persist, then it is called chronic otitis media.

Chronic (long-term) middle ear infections are very common in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and even though the infection can be treated, it is the most common cause of hearing loss in these children.

Find out more about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of middle ear infections.

Related information - ear infection, middle


(Media release)
18 Jul 2016 The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, as part of the Choosing Wisely Australia® initiative, is encouraging patients to engage in an active discussion with their GP around the appropriate prescribing of antibiotics for middle ear infections (otitis media). For the vast majority of children an antibiotic will not be required.
(Media release)
08 Jul 2016 With cold and flu season underway, NPS MedicineWise has released an interactive online case study tailored by audience to GPs, pharmacists and nurses on otitis media and antibiotic prescribing.
For health professionals (CPD activity)
10 Jun 2016 Weigh up the need for antibiotics with two different cases of acute otitis media in this free CPD case study. Tailored versions for GPs, pharmacists and nurses
04 Aug 2014 Ciloquin Ear Drops is a brand of medicine. Find out about side effects, who can and who shouldn’t use Ciloquin Ear Drops by reading the latest Australian consumer medicine information. See our tips on how to use medicines wisely and safely.
27 May 2013 The pneumococcal vaccines prevent bacterial infections that can cause pneumonia, meningitis & more. Read about who should be vaccinated & the vaccine's benefits & side effects.
30 Nov 2012 Cefaclor kills the bacteria that cause middle ear infections (otitis media), sinusitis and pneumonia. Find out how cefaclor works.
30 Nov 2012 Cefuroxime kills the bacteria that cause middle ear infections (otitis media), sinusitis, and pneumonia. Find out how cefuroxime works.
30 Nov 2012 Cefaclor is an antibiotic used to treat sinusitis, pneumonia, and middle ear infections (otitis media). Find out more.
30 Nov 2012 Cefuroxime is an antibiotic used to treat bacterial sinusitis, pneumonia, and middle ear infections (otitis media). Find out more.
29 Nov 2012 Amoxycillin with clavulanic acid can be taken during pregnancy and if you are breastfeeding unless you are allergic to amoxycillin or penicillin. Find out what to tell your doctor before you take amoxicillin with clavulanic acid.