Symptoms of fluid in the ear are typically mild and usually only consist of muffled hearing and a sensation of water inside the ear, explains Healthline. Children with fluid in the ear may also tug on the ears. The condition is also referred to as otitis media with effusion.
When excess fluid inside the ear becomes infected with bacteria or a virus, it can lead to a middle ear infection, explains Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of a middle ear infection include pain inside the ears, fluid drainage from the ear canal, headache, appetite loss and muffled hearing. It is important for parents who suspect ear infections in their children to seek medical attention if symptoms last longer than a day, or if the ear is leaking fluid or pus. Adults should seek medical attention at the first sign of fluid drainage.
In most cases, non-infected fluid inside the ears resolves on its own within a few weeks or a few months' time without treatment, explains MedlinePlus. If the fluid becomes infected, antibiotic treatment may be required. Children with chronic otitis media with effusion or those with hearing losses of over 20 decibels may require tube insertion inside the ears or surgery to remove the nasal adenoids.