Though ear infections are not so common in adults, they cause a great discomfort when occurred. Usually, ear infections are referred to a middle ear infection and these are more common when compared to outer ear infections. Since ear infections in adults are unlike the childhood ear infections which are minor and pass quickly, it signs a serious health problem in adults.
Adults with an ear infection should pay close attention to the symptoms and seek medical attention. In order to stay away from ear infections especially in the middle ear, let us know about middle ear infections in adults in detail.
What is a Middle Ear Infection?
A middle ear infection is an infection that occurs behind the eardrum. It is often known as “Otitis media”. It usually occurs when the fluid gets trapped behind the eardrum and causes inflammation. The bacterial or viral infection due to trapped fluid in the middle ear causes severe pain.
What causes a Middle Ear Infection?
A middle ear infection often occurs from a cold or other respiratory problem. The infection may spread to one or both ears through the Eustachian tubes, which regulate the air pressure inside the ear. These tubes connect to the back of the nose and throat.
When infection occurs, the eustachian tubes get irritated and tend to swell which affects the proper draining. As a result, the fluid inside the tubes cannot drain and gets build up against the eardrum.
What are the symptoms of a Middle Ear Infection?
Some of the commonly seen symptoms of ear infections in adults include:
- Ear pain
- Fluid draining from the ear
- Decreased hearing
- Itching inside the ear
- Feeling blockage in the ear
How can a Middle Ear Infection be diagnosed?
Usually, an ear infection is diagnosed by observing the symptoms and performing a physical examination of throat, head, neck and ears. With the help of otoscope, a lighted instrument with which the doctor can look inside the ear, for the presence of a red bulge or air bubbles or fluid that indicates an infection in the ear.
Another way to diagnose an ear infection is to use pneumatic otoscope test which can check the accumulation of fluid on the eardrum. In normal cases, when the air is blown, the eardrum moves front and back. But in an infected ear, the eardrum doesn’t move which is a clear sign of fluid accumulation.
An adult who suffers from frequent ear infections may suggest for a hearing test by the doctor.
How can a Middle Ear Infection be treated?
Adults with a middle ear infection are prescribed oral antibiotics or ear drops that can treat the infection. Some pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs may also be prescribed to manage the symptoms like pain.
If the person is experiencing symptoms of cold or allergy, the doctor may advise taking a decongestant or nasal steroids. Another technique which can help is auto insufflations. This can help to clear the eustachian tubes.
How can the Ear Infections be prevented?
Adults can stay protected from ear infections by following below tips:
- Keep the ears clean by gently washing them and using a cotton swab carefully. After swimming or taking a shower, one should dry their ears completely.
- Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke as well.
- Prevent allergies by avoiding triggers and taking prescribed allergy medications.
- Wash the hands thoroughly and try to avoid the contact with people who have colds or other respiratory problems.
- Get vaccinated up to date.