What are common complaints of a patient who presents with symptoms of otitis externa (OE)?

Updated: Mar 09, 2020
  • Author: Ariel A Waitzman, MD, FRCSC; Chief Editor: Ravindhra G Elluru, MD, PhD  more...
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Patients with otitis externa (OE) may complain of the following:

  • Otalgia, ranging from mild to severe, typically progressing over 1-2 days
  • Hearing loss
  • Ear fullness or pressure
  • Tinnitus
  • Fever (occasionally)
  • Itching (especially in fungal OE or chronic OE)
  • Severe deep pain – If this is experienced by a patient who is immunocompromised or diabetic, be alerted to the possibility of necrotizing (malignant) OE
  • Discharge – Initially, the discharge may be clear and odorless, but it quickly becomes purulent and foul-smelling
  • Bilateral symptoms (rare)
  • Frequently, a history of exposure to or activities in water (eg, swimming, surfing, and kayaking)
  • Usually, a history of preceding ear trauma (eg, forceful ear cleaning, use of cotton swabs, or water in the ear canal)

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