What are the signs and symptoms of acute otitis media (AOM)?

Updated: Sep 25, 2019
  • Author: John D Donaldson, MD, FRCSC, FACS; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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Although the history of AOM varies with age, a number of constant features manifest during the otitis-prone years, including the following:

  • Neonates: Irritability or feeding difficulties may be the only indication of a septic focus

  • Older children: This age group begins to demonstrate a consistent presence of fever and otalgia, or ear tugging

  • Older children and adults: Hearing loss becomes a constant feature of AOM and otitis media with effusion (OME); ear stuffiness is noted before the detection of middle ear fluid

Otalgia without hearing loss or fever is observed in adults with external otitis media, dental abscess, or pain referred from the temporomandibular joint. Orthodontic appliances often elicit referred pain as the dental occlusion is altered.

See Clinical Presentation for more detail.

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