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Double Ear Infection: What It Is And How To Find Relief?

By James Donovan

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This article was created after thorough research and has been improved with the assistance of AI technology. Furthermore, our dedicated editorial team has meticulously fact-checked and polished its content for accuracy and clarity.

Have you ever experienced that intense, throbbing pain in both ears simultaneously? If so, you might have had a double ear infection, also known as bilateral otitis media. This condition can be incredibly uncomfortable and even disruptive to your daily life, especially for children.

We understand that when you or your child is suffering from an ear infection, you want reliable information from trusted sources. That’s why we’ve integrated references from reputable organizations like the National Library of Medicine  (NLM) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about double ear infections – what causes them, how to identify the symptoms, and most importantly, how to treat them effectively.

Key takeaways:

A double ear infection refers to inflammation or infection occurring simultaneously in the middle ear cavities of both ears. It can be caused by viral or bacterial infections, and common risk factors include respiratory illnesses, allergies, and environmental exposures.
Symptoms of a double ear infection may include ear pain or discomfort in both ears, fever, difficulty sleeping or irritability (especially in children), temporary hearing loss or muffled hearing, ear drainage, dizziness or loss of balance, and even nausea or vomiting in severe cases.
Treatment options for double ear infections depend on the underlying cause and severity, but may include antibiotics for bacterial infections, pain relievers, decongestants or antihistamines if allergies are involved, ear tube surgery for recurrent cases (especially in children), or watchful waiting for mild viral cases while managing symptoms.

What Is a Double Ear Infection?

A double ear infection refers to the inflammation or infection of the middle ear cavity in both ears. The middle ear is the air-filled space behind the eardrum, which contains three tiny bones called the ossicles. This condition can be caused by either a viral or bacterial infection.

Ear Infections Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What Are the Causes of Double Ear Infection?

Several factors can contribute to the development of a double ear infection:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), respiratory illnesses like the common cold, influenza, and sinus infections can increase the risk of developing ear infections. The infection can spread from the nose and throat to the middle ear through the Eustachian tubes.

Allergic reactions can cause inflammation and swelling in the Eustachian tubes, making it easier for bacteria or viruses to enter the middle ear.

Exposure to secondhand smoke, daycare settings, and changes in air pressure (during air travel or swimming) can increase the risk of double ear infections, especially in children, according to the NLM.

What Are the Symptoms of a Double Ear Infection?

The symptoms of a double ear infection can vary depending on the severity and the individual’s age. Common symptoms include:

Ear pain or discomfort in both ears

This is often one of the most prominent symptoms, as the inflammation and buildup of fluid in the middle ear can cause intense, throbbing pain or a dull ache.


As the body’s immune system attempts to fight off the infection, a fever may develop, particularly in children.

Difficulty sleeping or irritability (in children)

The pain and discomfort associated with double ear infections can make it challenging for children to sleep through the night, leading to irritability and crankiness during the day.

Temporary hearing loss or muffled hearing

The accumulation of fluid in the middle ear can interfere with the normal conduction of sound waves, resulting in temporary hearing impairment or a muffled sensation.

Drainage from the ear(s)

In some cases, the buildup of fluid and pus may cause the eardrum to rupture, leading to a discharge of yellow, green, or bloody fluid from the affected ear(s).

Dizziness or loss of balance

The middle ear plays a crucial role in maintaining balance and equilibrium. Infections in both ears can disrupt this delicate system, causing dizziness, vertigo, or a general feeling of unsteadiness.

Nausea or vomiting (in severe cases)

In severe instances, particularly when the infection is accompanied by a high fever or intense pain, individuals may experience nausea and vomiting as a result of the body’s inflammatory response.

It’s important to note that the severity and combination of symptoms can vary from person to person, and some individuals may experience additional or atypical symptoms. 

How Are Double Ear Infections Treated?

The treatment approach for double ear infections depends on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. Here are some common treatment methods:

If the infection is bacterial, your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics to help fight the infection. It’s essential to complete the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed, even if symptoms improve, to prevent the infection from recurring.

Acetaminophen or ibuprofen, two over-the-counter painkillers, can help reduce the pain and discomfort brought on by double ear infections.

In cases where allergies or respiratory infections are the underlying cause, decongestants and antihistamines may be recommended to reduce inflammation and promote drainage from the middle ear.

In some cases, particularly for children with recurrent ear infections, a surgical procedure called myringotomy may be recommended. During this procedure, small tubes (tympanostomy tubes) are inserted into the eardrums to allow for proper ventilation and drainage of the middle ear.

For mild cases of double ear infections, especially those caused by viruses, healthcare providers may recommend a period of watchful waiting. This approach involves closely monitoring the symptoms and providing supportive care, such as pain relief medication while allowing the body’s immune system to fight off the infection.


Double ear infections can be a painful and distressing condition, but they are treatable with appropriate medical care. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and available treatment options, individuals can seek prompt medical attention and find relief from the discomfort associated with this condition. It is essential to follow the recommendations of healthcare professionals and complete the prescribed treatment regimen to ensure full recovery and prevent potential complications. 

Remember, seeking medical advice and adhering to reputable sources like the NLM and CDC can provide valuable guidance and credible information regarding double ear infections and their management.


1. What happens if a double ear infection goes untreated?

If a double ear infection goes untreated, it can lead to serious complications such as hearing loss, mastoiditis (a rare inflammation of the bone behind the ear), speech delays, and in severe cases, meningitis or brain abscess.

2. How do you sleep with a double ear infection?

Sleeping with a double ear infection can be challenging due to the pain and discomfort. Using over-the-counter pain medication, applying warm compresses, and sleeping with the affected ear(s) elevated can provide some relief and help you get better rest.

3. Is a double ear infection serious?

A double ear infection is generally not considered serious if it’s caught and treated promptly. However, it can become serious if left untreated, leading to complications like hearing loss, mastoiditis, or even meningitis.

4. How long can a double ear infection last?

The duration of a double ear infection can vary, but with proper treatment, most cases resolve within 1-2 weeks. However, in some cases, the infection may persist for up to 3-4 weeks or longer if not treated adequately.


James Donovan

Dr. James Donovan, MD, is an esteemed otolaryngologist renowned for his exceptional expertise in ear, nose, and throat (ENT) health. With a profound dedication to advancing medical knowledge and improving patient outcomes, Dr. Donovan has emerged as a leading authority in the field.

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