Ear infections are common in children.  This is due to the size of their eustachian tube and that the tube is more horizontal than in most adults.  Only around 20% of all ear infections occur in adults.  Usually ear infections happen after having a condition that keeps fluid from draining properly from the ear, such as allergies, a cold, sore throat, or a respiratory infection. 

Ear infections can be bacterial, viral, or fungal.  Adult ear infections may mean more serious problems so it is good to get checked out by a doctor if you think you could have an ear infection.


Ear Infection Risk Factors

Adults who have small eustachian tubes, or their eustachian tubes are sloped more than normal have a higher risk of developing ear infections.  Having a weakened immune system whether from another type of sickness, or a chronic condition can also raise your risk.  Inflammation can cause ear infections.  Diabetes and chronic skin conditions like eczema can also raise your risk of developing an ear infection. 


Ear Infection Symptoms

There are three parts of the ear.  Inner ear, middle ear, and outer ear.  All of which you can develop infections in. 

Inner Ear

An inner ear infection may be caused by inflammation rather than an actual infection.  An inner ear infection can cause pain, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, and sudden hearing loss.  

Middle Ear

The middle ear or the otitis media, is the most common area where ear infections happen.  Middle ear infections are when fluid becomes trapped behind the eardrum. 

Symptoms include earache, feeling of fullness in the ear, fever, and trouble hearing.  Fluid may drain from the ear if tympanic membrane rupture occurs, this is when the eardrum bursts from too much fluid behind it.  This eardrum rupture usually heals on its own without needing any medical intervention.  It can cause hearing difficulty.  Middle ear infections usually happen from having a cold or respiratory problem.  

There are three types of middle ear infections

The first one is acute otitis media.  This type of infection occurs suddenly.  It causes swelling, redness, fluid and mucous trapped inside the ear, a fever, and ear pain. 

The second type is otitis media with effusion.  This is when there is fluid and mucus buildup in the middle ear after an infection goes away.  The middle ear may have the feeling of being full for months.  This can affect your hearing. 

The last type of middle ear infection is chronic otitis media with effusion.  This may be the hardest one to treat.  This infection causes fluid to remain in the middle ear for a long time.  Fluid builds up over and over with no infection.  It also can affect your hearing.  

Outer Ear

The third type of ear infection you can get is in your outer ear.  This type is sometimes called swimmer’s ear because it can occur from water remaining in your ear after swimming or bathing.  In some cases it starts as an itchy rash. 

Outer ear infections can also occur if you have a cut on the outer part of your ear.  The outer part of your ear is from your eardrum all the way to the opening on the outside of your head. 

When the water remains in your ear it can become a great place for bacteria to start growing.  Outer ear infections can cause painful, tender, red, and swollen ears.  


Treatment for Ear Infections

How your ear infection is treated depends on what type of ear infection you have. 

For middle ear infections antibiotics are usually prescribed.  Over the counter medication to help with pain can also be taken.  If you are suffering from a cold, or respiratory problem of some kind then you can also take a decongestant, nasal steroid, or antihistamine to help alleviate those symptoms. 

Outer ear infection treatment should start with cleaning the area properly.  This can be done with anti-microbial or anti-inflammatory medications.  Depending on the cause of the outer ear infection antibiotics or antifungal medications can be prescribed.  If the outer ear infection is due to a viral infection there may be no treatment, besides waiting for the virus to run its course. 

Not treating an ear infection can cause loss of hearing that can be permanent, or put the individual at risk for the infection to spread to other parts of the head and body.  


Ear Infection Prevention

To prevent or lower the risk of getting ear infections there are some things you can do. 

Make sure your ears are dry after swimming, showering, or bathing. 

Stop smoking and stay away from second hand smoke. 

Manage your allergies, taking allergy medication when needed, and avoiding triggers. 

Wash your hands regularly and try to avoid sick people when possible.  



Ear infections aren’t common in adults but they still can occur.  It is best to be seen by a doctor when you start to have ear pain.  Adults may have dizziness, vertigo, and nausea with their ear infection.  If there is any fluid drainage from your ear it is important to see your doctor quickly. 

Not treating an ear infection can lead to permanent hearing loss.  




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