Ask the Doctor: How Long Do Ear Infections Last?

It is important to know how long do ear infections last, especially when you develop one yourself. Knowing how your body reacts to a certain disease and how long it takes for it to recover can give you the necessary confidence to keep pushing forward.

There is no room for fear once you are fighting to get better. Sometimes the only thing you can and should do is be patient, trust your treatment, and endure the time that it takes for you to finally prevail.

In this article, you will find out exactly how long do ear infections last and how they are usually treated.

Ear Infections: Valuable Info

If you hear the term “otitis media”, don’t let it frighten you as that is just another name for an ear infection.

Ear infection is a very common disease among children. According to research, this condition mostly targets children between 6 months and 3 years of age. However, that doesn’t mean that adults are safe. It just means that adults are, well, safer.

You see, we are able to hear because different parts of our auditory system work together in a perfect balance.

It is important to know that the ear consists of three main parts:

  • Outer ear
  • Middle ear
  • Inner ear

For each of these three main ear parts, the answer to the question “how long do ear infections last” is different. That’s why we will explore them a little bit further. However, despite these differences, it is interesting to note that the source of the problem is always the same.

Ear Infections: Cause

Bacteria and viruses are the number one cause of ear infections. Since the throat is connected with the middle ear by the eustachian tube, the bacteria can travel both ways. So, if you end up with a sore throat for a longer period of time, you might also develop an ear infection and vice versa.

Since children’s eustachian tubes are shorter than adult’s, they are at a much higher risk of this disease.

Ear Infections: How Long Do They Last?

Like we’ve mentioned before, the duration of an ear infection depends on the part of the ear that affected, so we will divide the answer into three parts.

The Middle Ear Infection:

Also known as auris media, the middle ear represents an area filled with air, located behind the eardrum. This part of the ear contains plenty of ossicles, which are small bones.

Extensive research shows that the middle ear is where most ear infections occur. Each year, around 30% of children under the age of 3 are diagnosed with a middle ear infection. The truth is that something as simple as the common flu can be the reason why your ear suddenly started to hurt.

Although it is always recommended that you visit your doctor, here is how you can diagnose a middle ear infection yourself.


  • Ear pain
  • Nausea
  • Hearing problems

And when it comes to children, the symptoms also include:

  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Loss of hearing

The good thing here is that the most painful symptoms last for about one to two days if treated correctly. If your symptoms last longer than two days, it is definitely time to talk to your doctor. The symptoms that are left untreated may lead to other, even worse, complications.

If the middle ear infection isn’t gone after the two-day mark, antibiotics will usually become part of the treatment. Before them, many people try home remedies, such as wet towels for lowering the temperature. However, those methods are still scientifically unproven.

The Outer Ear Infection:

It is pretty easy to know when your outer ear is infected because it is quite visible. Once you notice a swollen, red ear, that is most likely a sign of otitis externia – an outer ear infection.

Outer ear infections are common as well. Research shows that 1 out of 10 people will have an otitis externia at some point in their life.


  • Hard, sharp pain while touching the infected area
  • Swollen ears
  • Reduced hearing
  • Fever
  • Pain while chewing

If you are taking the correct treatment, the outer ear infection should be gone within 7 to 10 days. If you are using ear drops, the treatment may last up to 14 days.

This problem is usually treated by debridement, which represents a way of extracting the material from your ear. Also, pH alteration of the ear could be suggested.

The Inner Ear Infection:

The inner ear, also known as the labyrinth, has plenty of important functions. Not only does it play a vital role in hearing but it also helps your body maintain balance. With that being said, infections that target this area may cause problems with balance.


  • Vertigo
  • Falling
  • Problems with maintaining balance
  • Headache
  • Nausea

Compared to other infections, an inner ear infection lasts quite long. The worst symptoms may take up to 7 days to go away, while a complete recovery might even take up to 2 or 3 months! Older adults may experience balance problems for even longer and they need to take special treatments.

Antibiotics, balance therapy, resting, and avoiding television are usually the first line of defense here.


Besides learning the answer to the main question “how long do ear infections last”, you now also know a few key things about the disease itself that might help you avoid the whole trouble in the first place.

To prevent ear infections, you need to keep your ears clean and dry, especially after swimming or taking a shower. Keep your allergies under control and avoid contact with people who have upper respiratory problems that may be contagious. Wash your hands before touching your skin, nose, or ears, and avoid potential irritants like cigarettes and secondhand smoke.

If you notice some of these symptoms you should head to your doctor as soon as possible. Some of these diseases may lead to other, more dangerous conditions rather quickly, so early treatment is recommended.