What is chronic otitis media?

Chronic otitis media is a lingering, constantly draining perforation of the eardrum. This is typically caused by acute otitis media, ear injury, blockage of the Eustachian tube or blast injuries.

It is important to note that chronic otitis media might erupt after an infection of the throat or nose such as common cold or when water goes inside the middle ear via a perforation in the eardrum while swimming or bathing.

Chronic otitis media

Chronic otitis media might erupt after an infection of the throat or nose such as common cold.

In most cases, the flare-ups trigger a painless drainage of pus that has a foul odor from the ear. The constant flare-ups might lead to the development of bulging growths known as polyps that extend from the middle ear via the perforation and into the ear canal. In case of persistent infection, it can damage parts of the ossicles that results to conductive hearing loss.

Some individuals who have chronic otitis media can develop a cholesteatoma in the middle ear. This is described as a non-cancerous growth of whitish, skin-like material. A cholesteatoma that destroys the bone can increase the risk for other serious complications such as inner ear inflammation and even brain infections.

How is it diagnosed

The doctor will come up with a diagnosis of chronic otitis media if pus or skin-like material builds up in a hole or pocket in the eardrum that often drains. When identifying the bacteria responsible for the infection, sample of the ear drainage is taken for analysis.

In case the doctor suspects that the individual has a cholesteatoma, a CT scan or MRI might be performed.


If a flare up of chronic otitis media occurs, the doctor will usually prescribe antibiotic ear drops. An individual with severe flare-ups are also given antibiotics that are taken orally. Remember that water must be kept out of the ear if a perforation is present.

In most instances, perforation of the eardrum can be fixed with a procedure called tympanoplasty. If the ossicles were damaged, they can be repaired at the same time. A cholesteatoma should be removed via surgery. Otherwise, serious complications are likely to arise.