Symptoms Of Ear Infections In Adults
Its probably been years or even decades since youve experienced the agony of an ear infection. This is because babies and children are the typical victims. Their tiny Eustachian tubes can easily block, resulting in a fluid backup. As this fluid sits, bacteria festers behind the eardrum. This is called a middle ear infection or otitis media.
But even though ear infections are common in children, adults arent exactly immune to them. Tobacco smoke, allergies, viruses, sinus infections, or overgrown adenoids can all cause your Eustachian tubes to swell and malfunction. The symptoms for an adult middle ear infection could be different from a child, so watch out for the following signs:
Cold Or Warm Compress
You can use a cold compress or a heating pad to help get relief from any type of pain behind the ear or neck pain.
For example, doctors on the website Drugs.com say that a cold or warm compress may help to get rid of pain from an ear infection. You could try alternating between both to help get rid of mastoid bone pain due to an earache.16
How to use heat for ear and neck pain:
How to use ice for pain behind ear and neck:
Foreign Object In Ear
Getting something stuck in your ear that shouldnt be there can cause varying degrees of pain behind the ear. The foreign object could even cause an ear infection to develop which can then cause ear and neck pain.
Dr. Kenneth Buccino on eMedicineHealth says that pieces of food, beads, insects and even an accumulation of earwax can cause discomfort in the ear. Pain in the ear is usually the most common symptom. However, coughing, bleeding, or nausea can also accompany ear pain in the affected ear.12
How Can I Tell If Its An Ear Infection Or Just Teething
Are you tired of taking your fussy baby to the doctor to check her ears, only to be told its probably just teething? To help you decide, with teething:
- The pain usually starts at 4 months old and will come and go until the 2-year molars are in
- Tugging or digging at the ears with no cold symptoms or fever
- Fussiness or night waking with no cold symptoms or fever
- May have low fever less than 101º
- Teething does not cause a runny nose, only drool
Can A Ear Infection Also Cause A Bad Cough
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Follow Up With The Doctor
Most doctors will have you follow up anywhere from one to four weeks after an ear infection. There are several reasons for this:
- To make sure the infection is clearing up
- To make sure the middle ear fluid is draining out. If the fluid stays around continuously for more than three months, your doctor needs to know
- To help determine if the next ear infection is a new one or a continuation of an old infection. This helps determine which antibiotic to use. Your doctor may perform a tympanogram a rubber probe that painlessly fits into your babys ear canal and measures how the eardrum vibrates. This helps determine if there is any fluid left
IMPORTANT NOTE: Try to avoid over-treating with unnecessary repeated courses of antibiotics. At your follow-up visit with your doctor, there may still be fluid in the middle ear. If the ear is not red or bulging and your child is acting fine, you may not need another course of antibiotics. Doctors will vary in how aggressive they like to treat ear fluid. You may be able to spare your child from an unnecessary course of antibiotics.
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When An Ear Infection Is Serious
Ear infections in adults can lead to serious consequences, including hearing loss if left unchecked. An untreated infection may also spread to other parts of the body. Any suspected ear infection should be diagnosed by a doctor. People with a history of recurrent ear infections should be seen by an ear specialist.
Can An Ear Infection Be Prevented Or Avoided
Although an ear infection is not contagious, the bacteria or virus that caused it is often contagious. Its important to:
- Vaccinate your child with a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine to protect against several types of pneumococcal bacteria. This type of bacteria is the most common cause of ear infections. Get your childs vaccinations on time.
- Practice routine hand washing and avoid sharing food and drinks, especially if your child is exposed to large groups of kids in day care or school settings.
- Avoid second-hand smoke.
- Breastfeed your baby exclusively for the first 6 months and continue breastfeeding for at least 1 year. Place your baby at an angle while feeding.
Common allergy and cold medicines do not protect against ear infections.
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Breathe Clear Institute Can Treat Adult Ear Infections
Even though plenty of ear infections heal on their own, they can be painful and scary. Whether youre experiencing an acute case or a chronic ear infection, our ENT doctors and medical professionals are determined to get you better. Our services range from minor antibiotic treatments and myringotomies to more invasive eardrum and eustachian tube surgeries.
At Breathe Clear Institute, we understand that not all patients are the same. We take a holistic approach to medicine instead of one-size-fits-all. Expect to be treated as an individual. We will perform a thorough examination and run all necessary tests before devising the best treatment for your case. Schedule an appointment with Breathe Clear Institute and get some much-needed relief from your ear infection.
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When To Seek Medical Advice
Most cases of otitis media pass within a few days, so there’s usually no need to see your GP.
However, see your GP if you or your child have:
- symptoms showing no sign of improvement after two or three days
- a lot of pain
- a discharge of pus or fluid from the ear some people develop a persistent and painless ear discharge that lasts for many months, known as chronic suppurative otitis media
- an underlying health condition, such as cystic fibrosis or congenital heart disease, which could make complications more likely
Read more about diagnosing middle ear infections
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Can Ear Infections Affect Hearing
Fluid buildup in the middle ear also blocks sound, which can lead to temporary hearing problems. Kids having a problem might:
- not respond to soft sounds
- need to turn up the TV or radio
- talk louder
- seem inattentive at school
In kids who have otitis media with effusion, the fluid behind the eardrum can block sound, so mild temporary hearing loss can happen, but might not be obvious.
A child whose eardrum has ruptured might have ringing or buzzing in the ear and not hear as well as usual.
How Do You Open A Blocked Ear From Coughing
If your ears are plugged, try swallowing, yawning or chewing sugar-free gum to open your eustachian tubes. If this doesnt work, take a deep breath and try to blow out of your nose gently while pinching your nostrils closed and keeping your mouth shut. If you hear a popping noise, you know you have succeeded.
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Treating An Ear Infection
Many cases of ear infections improve on their own without medical intervention. Your doctor may want to monitor your symptoms for signs of improvement over the course of a week or two.
For younger children with mild ear pain, doctors often recommend a watch-and-wait approach to monitor symptoms for no longer than 48 hours.
If symptoms dont improve, your doctor may recommend antibiotic treatment or ear drops . In more severe or chronic cases, surgery may be recommended to drain excess fluid from the middle ear.
Ear infections arent contagious. But you can avoid spreading germs that may trigger an ear infection by taking simple preventive measures:
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
Why Not Take Antibiotics
Most of these types of symptoms and infections are self-limiting they will go away without any treatment. A child’s immune system is very powerful and will clear up most common infections by itself. Colds and most coughs are caused by viruses, and antibiotics do not work against viruses.
There are several reasons why it is not a good idea to take antibiotics unless they are really needed.
- Using antibiotics can make bacteria resistant to antibiotics. In other words, the antibiotics will no longer work against the bacteria. Someone who has recently taken antibiotics is more likely to have resistant bacteria in their body. Some bacteria have become resistant to almost all antibiotics.
- Using antibiotics when not needed may mean that they won’t work when they are needed in the future, eg, for a serious or life-threatening infection.
- Most antibiotics have side effects, eg, diarrhoea, rashes and stomach upsets.
- Antibiotics kill our natural bacteria that help to protect us. This can result in infections such as thrush .
- Antibiotics can also cause allergic reactions. These are often just annoying rashes, but can, in some cases, be severe reactions.
If your child gets an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection:
- they will have the infection for longer
- they may be more likely to have complications of the infection
- they could remain infectious for longer, and pass the infection to other people, which increases the problem.
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Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- How can I keep my child comfortable at night with the pain of an ear infection?
- Is there drainage with an ear infection?
- What is the difference between an ear infection and swimmers ear?
- Is my child a candidate for ear tubes?
- What are the risks and benefits of surgically inserting tubes inside my childs middle ear?
- Should my child get regular hearing tests if they have frequent ear infections?
Can You Catch An Earache If You Have A Cold
Earache due to ear infection. Doctors call an ear infection acute otitis media . Signs that indicate you have an ear infection rather than an earache from a cold include: The pain does not go away with your other cold symptoms.
How is an ear infection different from a cold?
The pain does not go away with your other cold symptoms. Your hearing is dulled. Hearing loss associated with an ear infection is usually mild its like putting a good earplug in your ear, says Dr. Rosenfeld. You may develop a fever. The pain is more intense.
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When Should You Call A Healthcare Provider
If your child develops signs of an ear infection, such as tugging on the ear and crying while lying down, call your healthcare provider. Your pediatrician will most likely want to examine your childs ears and may prescribe an antibiotic right away. Seek emergency treatment if your childs temperature goes above 104 F or if they develop neck stiffness, muscle weakness, or bleeding.
How Do Ear Infections Develop
Bacteria and viruses can spread to the middle ear and cause infection more easily when you have nasal congestion and swelling in your eustachian tubes, such as with a cold. These narrow tubes run from your middle ear to the back of your throat. Theyre responsible for regulating air and draining fluid in your ear.
Swelling and inflammation in your eustachian tubes can cause blockages and allow fluid to accumulate in your middle ear. This can lead to pressure, ear pain, and headaches common symptoms of an ear infection. Other conditions likely to block your eustachian tubes include:
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If Your Child Has An Ear Infection
What is an ear infection?
A typical ear infection is an inflammation of the middle ear. Its one of the most common childhood infections and can occur in one ear at a time or both ears at the same time. They are more common during cold and flu season.
What are the causes of ear infections?
Many situations can contribute to developing an ear infection. A middle ear infection can be caused by infection of fluid behind the ear drum, secondary to a viral or bacterial upper respiratory infection or uncontrolled allergies.
What are some of the symptoms parents should look for in their children?
Symptoms can include ear pain, ear drainage, fever, irritability, sleeplessness, poor appetite, cough and nasal discharge. Children who arent old enough to speak might be fussier or seem to have trouble hearing or responding to quiet sounds. Tugging on the ears is not a reliable symptom to help your doctor lead to the diagnosis of an ear infection.
How are ear infections treated?
Some infections might clear on their own with close follow-up. Antibiotics are typically used to treat ear infections. If your child has reoccurring ear infections, they might be a candidate for ear tubes.
How can you soothe a child with ear infections?
Acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen can help to soothe a child with an ear infection. Sometimes your doctor may prescribe a numbing ear drop for temporary relief.
If children have frequent ear infections, what damage could this cause?
Coughs And Colds In Children
- Most coughs and colds in children are caused by viral infections.
- Cold viruses are spread easily through droplets from the nose and mouth of infected people.
- Cold viruses can cause a runny nose, sore throat, cough and lethargy.
- The best treatment for a cold virus is to rest at home so your childs immune system can fight the virus.
- Cough syrups and cold medicines are not considered effective or recommended for children.
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How Can I Prevent An Ear Infection
Remove as many environmental pollutants from your home as you can, including:
- Tobacco smoke
Also, reduce your or your child’s exposure to people with colds, and control allergies.
- Be sure everyone in your household, including your children, get the proper vaccines when recommended. That includes flu and pneumococcal vaccines.
- Make hand washing a habit that becomes part of the family’s routine.
- If possible, avoid group care for children, especially during cold and flu season.
How Is Otitis Media Treated
If your child is in pain or has a fever, you should give them paracetamol. Your doctor may suggest anaesthetic ear drops. Encourage your child to drink plenty of water. Most kids will feel better within a day or two.
You should see a doctor if your child:
- is still feeling unwell after 48 hours
- has severe pain
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Diagnosing An Ear Infection
To find out whether you have an ear infection, your doctor will use an otoscope to look for signs of infection inside your ear Such signs include:
- Bulging eardrum due to fluid and pus behind the eardrum the fluid buildup is called effusion.
- An eardrum responding less flexibly than normal this is checked using a pneumatic otoscope.
- Cloudiness of the eardrum Usually the eardrum looks like a clear shower curtain, says Rosenfeld.
- Some loss of hearing but Rosenfeld says hearing tests are not helpful for diagnosing ear infection.
Can Middle Ear Infections Be Prevented
It’s not possible to prevent middle ear infections, but there are some things you can do that may reduce your child’s risk of developing the condition. These include:
- make sure your child is up-to-date with their routine vaccinations particularly the pneumococcal vaccine and the DTaP/IPV/Hib vaccine
- avoid exposing your child to smoky environments
- don’t give your child a dummy once they’re older than six to 12 months old
- don’t feed your child while they’re lying flat on their back
- if possible, feed your baby with breast milk rather than formula milk
Avoiding contact with other children who are unwell may also help reduce your child’s chances of catching an infection that could lead to a middle ear infection.
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