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Draining Fluid From the Middle Ear

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Draining Fluid From the Middle Ear

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The fluid accumulation in the middle ear may be due to a middle ear infection. There are several ways to drain the fluid, which are discussed below.

Published At February 2, 2023
Reviewed AtApril 13, 2024


Fluid in the middle ear, which is known as serous otitis media, can build up due to middle ear infection, sinus infection, viral infections, allergies, and acid reflux. It can be painful and cause difficulty in hearing. But there are a few ways to drain the fluid from the middle ear, that can be done at home, and they include applying a warm compress, steam inhalation, popping the ear, and the Valsalva maneuver. Some over-the-counter medicines may also be useful. This condition is mainly seen in children in association with a middle ear infection. The fluid in the ear usually resolves on its own, but some cases may require consultation with a doctor, which is also mentioned in the article.

How to Drain Fluid From the Middle Ear?

The following are the methods to drain fluid from the middle ear:

  • Pop the Ear - There is a tube connecting the middle ear to the back of the throat called the eustachian tube so that the fluid from the middle ear naturally drains to the throat through this tube. But in case of an infection or other conditions, the tube swells, and thus, the fluid cannot drain as it normally does, which will cause the fluid to back up.

Popping the ear can help to open the eustachian tube, which will allow the fluid to drain. The simplest way to pop the ears is by yawning, chewing, or swallowing. The other way to pop open the ear is called the Valsalva maneuver.

  1. Take a deep breath and hold it.

  2. Gently pinch the nose shut.

  3. Slowly and gently exhale through the nose.

There will be a pop sound when the eustachian tube opens.

  • Vacuum - If the ear does not open with the above technique, then do the following:

Cup the hand over the ear so that the palm covers the entire ear. Then press the palm over the ear so that it creates a seal. After that, with gentle movement, move the palm in and out so as to create a pulsatile vacuum in the ear. So, when pressing the palm in, pressure will be felt in the ear. Then there will be a pop sound when the eustachian tube opens.

  • Saltwater Gargle - Doctors mostly recommend gargling with saltwater, which can help to drain fluid from the ears. There are several advantages to this like the saltwater will help to soothe and shrink the swollen tissue and help to resolve throat pain which may cause earaches. Apart from that, as the eustachian tube is connected to the back of the throat, a saltwater gargle will resolve the swelling and allow the fluid trapped to drain. Also, the saltwater gargle will also help to pop open the ears and allow the water to drain. For saltwater gargle, add a teaspoon of salt to one cup of warm water and stir to dissolve the salt in the water. Take a mouthful of saltwater, keep the throat closed, and tilt the head back. Gargle for 30 seconds to one minute.

  • Eardrops - The idea of introducing fluid into the ear may seem to contradict, but it will resolve the condition. One can use over-the-counter medicines for this.

  • Mucus Thinning Medications - This will help to drain the fluid from the ear by thinning the mucus in the body. Take a product with Guaifenesin only and take the medication as mentioned by the manufacturer’s directions. They may come in many forms, like tablets, which need to be taken every four hours, and extended-release tablets which need to be taken every 12 hours. Check for the composition carefully, as Guaifenesin is mostly combined with other medications, such as cough suppressants, antihistamines, and decongestants.

  • Steroid Nasal Spray - Manage any underlying allergies, as they can also affect the ear. Over-the-counter nasal steroids can help to open the eustachian tube and help to drain the fluid from the ear. They work by reducing the inflammation in the nose, which will help to drain fluid from the eustachian tube. But it may take up to a few days to show its effect.

  • Decongestants - Nasal sprays or oral medications containing decongestants are available for purchase over-the-counter at pharmacies. Also, follow the instructions provided on their label. The nasal decongestants should not be used for more than three consecutive days. Their long-term usage has shown rebound swelling of the nasal passages. There may be other side effects in children, like hyperactivity, restlessness, and insomnia. Consult a doctor before taking nasal decongestants.

  • Oral Antihistamines - Oral antihistamines might be useful for some people for cleaning a sinus infection as they can ease nasal congestion. But there are some serious side effects of oral antihistamines for the sinus, like drying up of the mucous membranes and thickening of the secretions from the nose. So before taking antihistamines, consult a doctor to find out whether they will be useful for the condition. Also, it is advised to treat uncomplicated sinusitis or ear infections. Confusion, drowsiness, blurred vision, moodiness, or overstimulation are some other side effects of antihistamines.

  • Over-the-Counter Pain Reliever - Some doctors might also suggest taking over-the-counter pain relievers like Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen to help ease the pain and discomfort. But follow the instructions mentioned on the label of the medicine.

When to See the Doctor?

If serous otitis media is left untreated, it can cause bone and cartilage damage and hearing loss. If the home treatment is not helping with the condition or there are symptoms that are mentioned below, then consult a healthcare provider.

  • Pain inside the ear increases when touching the outer ear.

  • A sensation that the ear is blocked or full.

  • Fever.

  • Pus drainage from the ear.

  • Foul smell from the ear.

  • Limited hearing.

  • Severe pain that may spread to the face, neck, or side of the head.

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the upper neck, or around the ear.

  • Redness or swelling of the skin around the ear.

The healthcare provider will ask about the symptoms and examine the ear, looking for redness and swelling in the ear canal. They may take samples in case of drainage from the ear.


There may be drainage from the ear in many medical conditions, among which the common cause for this is the middle ear infections, which can result in blockage of the eustachian tube, and hence the fluid in middle ear gets trapped. There are many ways to help drain the fluid from the ear at home, but if it does not work, it is better to consult a specialist for the condition.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Can Fluid in the Middle of the Ear Be Removed?

The following remedies can be used to remove the fluid in the middle ear:
- The Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the throat, can be opened by swallowing and yawning, allowing the fluid to drain spontaneously.
- Over-the-counter nasal decongestant sprays or drops can help relieve nasal congestion and widen the Eustachian tube, enabling the fluid to drain.
- Applying a warm compress to the troubled ear may help to lessen swelling and encourage fluid outflow.
- To get the fluid to move and drain out, tilt the head to the affected side and lightly tap the back of the ear.
- Remaining adequately hydrated can aid in thinning the mucus in the nasal passages, facilitating the fluid's drainage.


Is Middle Ear Fluid a Serious Issue?

Middle ear fluid typically goes away on its own without the need for special medical care. However, medical intervention can be necessary if the illness lasts for a long time, if it results in considerable hearing loss or other symptoms that reduce the quality of life. In some circumstances, such as when it affects young children, OME can be more serious. Particularly if it happens during crucial stages of language development, middle ear fluid that persists in children has the potential to cause speech and language delays, hearing loss, and other developmental problems. Furthermore, quick medical care may be necessary to avoid complications such as ear infections or other secondary infections if the middle ear fluid is accompanied by excruciating pain, fever, or other indicators of infection.


What Is the Middle Ear Fluid Drainage Procedure Called?

A myringotomy or tympanostomy is the medical term for the middle ear fluid draining procedure. To allow accumulated fluid in the middle ear to drain out, a tiny incision must be made in the tympanic membrane (eardrum). Treatment for disorders like otitis media with effusion (OME), sometimes known as "glue ear," in which fluid builds up in the middle ear and causes hearing loss, discomfort, and other symptoms, frequently involves this surgery. The myringotomy operation can be performed using several procedures, and in some situations, a small tube may be placed into the incision to aid in maintaining drainage and avoid further fluid buildup.


What Happens if Ear Fluid Is Not Drained?

If middle ear effusion, often known as ear fluid, is not treated, it might result in a number of issues. The buildup of fluid in the middle ear can result in discomfort, hearing loss, and balance issues. It can also raise the chance of getting ear infections, which can trigger additional problems like eardrum perforation, persistent otitis media, and even irreversible hearing loss. Since hearing is so important for language development, untreated ear fluid in children occasionally causes speech and language problems. In order to avoid any consequences, it is crucial to get medical assistance if you suspect ear fluid collection.


What Medication Dries Up Ear Fluid?

There are no particular drugs made just to drain ear fluid. However, nasal corticosteroids like fluticasone or decongestant drugs like pseudoephedrine can assist in lessening nasal congestion, which may inadvertently relieve ear pressure and aid in ear fluid drainage. If an ear infection is present, doctors may also advise antibiotics since they can speed up the healing process and lessen fluid buildup. A skilled healthcare expert should make that decision, however, following a correct diagnosis and evaluation of the underlying source of the ear fluid.


What Is the Most Common Reason for Middle Ear Fluid?

Otitis media with effusion, or middle ear fluid, is most frequently caused by malfunction of the Eustachian tube. The middle ear's air pressure can be balanced thanks to the Eustachian tube, a little tube that runs from the middle ear to the back of the throat. An accumulation of fluid in the middle ear can happen when the Eustachian tube is clogged or does not operate properly. This may happen as a result of conditions like bacterial or viral infections, allergies, sinus congestion, or anatomical problems. Children frequently have middle ear fluid, which can result in symptoms like hearing loss, ear pain, and a sense of fullness in the ear.


How Long Does It Take for the Ear to Drain Fluid?

The underlying cause, the severity of the disease, and the person's general health are some of the variables that affect how long it takes for the ear to drain fluid. Milder episodes of ear fluid typically go away on their own in a few days to a week. The need for medical intervention may arise in more severe cases or those brought on by chronic diseases because they may take longer to drain.


Is Fluid in the Middle Ear an Infection?

Although fluid in the middle ear can occasionally be a sign of an infection, it can also happen for other causes. Otitis media, or middle ear infections, are frequently brought on by bacteria or viruses that cause fluid to build up in the area behind the eardrum. Symptoms like discomfort, hearing loss, and fever may result from this. However, other reasons such as allergies, colds, or changes in altitude can also cause fluid to build up in the middle ear.


What Causes Fluid In Inner Ear?

There are many causes of fluid in the inner ear. An infection like otitis media, which causes fluid to build up behind the eardrum, is one typical cause. The dysfunction of the Eustachian tube, which is where the tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the throat is obstructed, is another potential factor. Fluid accumulation in the inner ear can also be brought on by allergies, colds, and sinus infections. In some circumstances, fluid buildup in the ear might be brought on by anatomical defects or trauma.


Is Fluid in Ear Dangerous?

Serous otitis media, often known as fluid in the ear, is usually not harmful but can be painful and can result in temporary hearing loss. It is frequently brought on by an accumulation of fluid behind the eardrum as a result of conditions like allergies, infections, or alterations in air pressure. Most of the time, the fluid will drain on its own or with little help from a doctor.


What Does Fluid in the Middle Ear Look Like?

Typically, the liquid in the middle ear is viscous and yellowish or amber in hue. It could have a thinly syrup-like or slightly sticky consistency. The fluid may cover the typical middle ear features, including the tympanic membrane (eardrum) and the ossicles (small bones that carry sound) when seen using an otoscope, a medical device used to examine the ear.


How Should the Ears Be Massaged to Drain?

Use delicate and meticulous approaches when massaging the ears to encourage drainage in order to prevent any pain or damage. Start by placing the fingertips at the base of the skull, behind the ears, and gently massaging the area in circular strokes. Continue massaging in a circular motion and move fingers to the front of the ears, following their natural contours. To encourage drainage, delicately twist and wriggle the earlobes. Always avoid placing anything into the ear canal.


Which Antibiotic Treats Ear Fluid the Best?

Depending on the underlying cause of the problem, the best antibiotic for treating ear fluid will vary. Amoxicillin, Azithromycin, and Cefdinir are common antibiotics recommended for ear fluid, commonly known as otitis media with effusion. While Azithromycin and Cefdinir are broad-spectrum antibiotics that can treat a greater variety of bacterial illnesses, amoxicillin is frequently used to treat bacterial infections. It's crucial to remember that not every case of ear fluid necessitates medications; some may go away on their own. The optimal antibiotic treatment for ear fluid depends on an accurate diagnosis and prescription from a medical practitioner.


How Serious Is an Infection in the Middle Ear?

Acute otitis media, often known as an infection of the middle ear, can range in severity based on the infection's origin, the patient's age and general health, and the presence of any underlying diseases. Middle ear infections can often range in severity from mild to severe. Mild middle ear infections may result in ear pain, discomfort, and a sense of pressure or fullness. Increased discomfort, fever, and possibly ear fluid leakage are symptoms of moderate infections. The pain, fever, hearing loss, and other potentially catastrophic problems that can accompany severe middle ear infections make them more incapacitating.


In the Middle Ear, How Long Can Fluid Remain?

Normal conditions should not allow middle ear fluid to last for an extended amount of time. The middle ear, a little cavity beyond the eardrum, usually contains air. The Eustachian tube, which connects it to the back of the throat, aids in balancing the air pressure between the middle ear and the outside world. However, fluid can build up in the middle ear under specific circumstances, such as during an ear infection or when the Eustachian tube is clogged. Otitis media with effusion, or simply middle ear fluid, is the medical term for this illness. As long as the underlying reason is treated, the middle ear fluid typically goes away on its own within a few weeks to a few months.


What Signs Indicate Ear Drainage?

Ear pain, discomfort, and a sense of fullness or pressure in the affected ear are all potential symptoms of ear drainage. A significant discharge from the ear may be present; it may be clear, yellow, brown, or red in hue. The discharge may smell bad and leave stains on bedding or clothing. Additionally, the affected ear may have tinnitus, which is ringing in the ears. There may occasionally be accompanying symptoms including fever, lightheadedness, or balance issues. It's crucial to remember that ear discharge could be a sign of an underlying illness like an ear infection, a ruptured eardrum, or other ear-related problems. As a result, quick medical assistance should be sought to identify the reason and obtain the proper care.


Can a Middle Ear Infection Make One Deaf?

Otitis media, or middle ear infection, can, in some cases, result in temporary hearing loss, but this is uncommon. Hearing loss or muffling may result from the infection's inflammation and fluid buildup in the middle ear, which can disrupt the passage of sound waves. However, after receiving antibiotic treatment for the infection and the swelling goes down, hearing usually returns to normal. Rarely, severe or persistent middle ear infections might result in side effects like harm to the eardrum or the middle ear bones, which can cause irreversible hearing loss. In order to avoid potential hearing loss, it's crucial to seek medical help as soon as you detect a middle ear infection and to adhere to the recommended treatment schedule.


Can Ear Fluid Affect the Brain?

Yes, ear fluid may have a negative impact on the brain. The vestibulocochlear nerve, which transmits auditory and balance information, connects the inner ear to the brain. Due to disorders like otitis media or Eustachian tube dysfunction, the middle ear can accumulate fluid and alter the pressure, which may damage the inner ear's functionality and interfere with the brain's signaling. This may occasionally cause symptoms like vertigo, hearing loss, balance issues, and dizziness. The degree of symptoms might vary depending on the person and the underlying reason, therefore it's vital to keep in mind that not all cases of ear fluid will affect the brain.
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Dr. Syed Peerzada Tehmid Ul Haque
Dr. Syed Peerzada Tehmid Ul Haque

Otolaryngology (E.N.T)


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