Ear infections may seem like a childhood ailment; in fact, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), five out of six children will have an ear infection before they turn three. Even though they are far more common in children, people of all ages can develop an infection in the ear. Understanding the signs of an adult ear infection can ensure you seek treatment when needed.
Three Types of Ear Infections
You ear is made up of three parts: the outer, middle and inner ear. Each of these parts can become infected.
An infection of the outer portion of the ear is known as otitis externa or swimmer’s ear. What starts with an itchy ear can lead to an ear that is tender, red, swollen and painful.
This type of ear infection usually occurs after swimming, bathing or participating in water activities. Water can become trapped in the ear, which is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
Middle Ear Infection
This is the most common type of ear infection, known as otitis media. Symptoms include:
- Feeling of fullness in the ear
- Hearing loss
Caused by a cold or respiratory problem, the infection can move to the ears and cause the Eustachian tubes to swell. These tubes connect your ears with the back of your throat and control the pressure within the middle ear and aid in drainage. When blocked up, the fluid within the ear cannot drain properly and begins to push against your eardrum.
Inner Ear Infection
What is diagnosed as an inner ear infection is usually caused by inflammation rather than an actual infection. Symptoms include ear pain, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and may be signs of meningitis, a serious medical condition.
Ear Infection Treatments
The cause and location of your ear infection will dictate your doctor’s treatment recommendation.
Middle ear infections are often treated with the use of oral and topical antibiotics. Over-the-counter medications may be used to help deal with the ear pain. Decongestants, nasal steroids and antihistamines may also be taken.
Outer ear infections require the ear to be well cleaned and antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory medications will be applied. Antibiotics will be prescribed if your doctor suspects the infection is caused by bacteria. To learn more about treating or preventing an ear infection or to schedule an appointment with an ear, nose and throat doctor, contact ENT & Allergy Partners today.