Your middle ear is a hollow space behind your eardrum. The middle ear contains 3 tiny bones that transmit vibrations of your eardrum to the nerves in your inner ear.
Your eustachian tube connects the back of your throat to your middle ear.
Your ear canal is the tube that connects the outside of your ear to your eardrum.
Fluid can build up in your middle ear, usually after a middle ear infection (otitis media). This is what doctors mean when they say you have fluid in your ear. They aren't talking about water that got in your ear canal from a shower or swimming. "Media" means middle, and "otitis" means inflamed ear, so when fluid is secreted into your middle ear, doctors call it secretory otitis media.
Although it can happen after an ear infection, the fluid in secretory otitis media isn't infected
Secretory otitis media can happen at any age but is most common in children
You may feel a fullness in your ear and have some hearing loss
Doctors look in your ear and use a sound wave test to tell if you have fluid in there
Doctors may need to make an opening in your eardrum to let fluid drain
An acute ear infection that doesn't completely go away
Problems with your eustachian tube
Normally, you release pressure in your middle ear when you swallow. Swallowing causes your eustachian tubes to open, which can happen 3 to 4 times per minute. If an eustachian tube is blocked, fluid builds up in your middle ear so that your eardrum can't move the way it should.
Eustachian tube blockage can happen when colds or allergies cause the lining of the eustachian tube and adenoids to swell. Adenoids are clumps of tissue that help fight infection and are right near the opening of the eustachian tube.
If young children have secretory otitis media with hearing loss for a long time, they can have trouble learning how to speak. Secretory otitis media also raises the risk of getting more ear infections (acute ear infections).
Most people will get better without treatment. Antibiotics don't help secretory otitis media.
To briefly relieve the fullness in your ear, you can breathe out while you close your mouth and pinch your nose shut.
If your symptoms last more than 3 months, a doctor may need to: