It’s the middle of the night and you wake up with a sharp, stabbing pain in your ear. You’re pretty sure you have an ear infection. You’re surprised, because you didn’t know adults could get ear infections. As it turns out, they can.
While mostly thought of as a childhood ailment, a little less than 20 percent of ear infections occur in adults. Ear infections are more common in children because their Eustachian tubes are smaller and can therefore become blocked easier.
Ear infections can affect the inner, middle, and outer ear, and can be caused by inflammation, bacteria or viruses, or water that remains in your ear after swimming or bathing.
Symptoms of adult ear infections include ear pain, muffled hearing, a feeling of fullness in the ear, ear drainage, and nausea.
To prevent an ear infection, make sure to completely dry your ears after any extended period of time in the water. Also, not only should you not smoke, but you should avoid secondhand smoke if possible. Try to avoid people with upper respiratory problems, and make sure allergies are managed appropriately.
Most ear infections are treated with antibiotics. If you don’t get treatment for an ear infection, you not only run the risk of the infection spreading to other parts of your head, but it may even cause permanent hearing loss. If the infection persists, your doctor may try other antibiotics or even consider you for ear tubes. You should strongly consider going to the emergency room if your ear pain is accompanied by nausea or a high fever.
If your only symptom is an earache, you might have another issue that causes ear pain, including dental disease, TMJ (jaw joint) pain, neck pain, or throat pain. Adult ear infections or ear pain may also be the sign of a more serious health problem, such as meningitis or head trauma.
If the pain doesn’t get better, you have a fever, fluid is draining from your ear, or you have trouble hearing, you’ll want to see a doctor as soon as you can, CEENTA ENT doctor John Kilde, MD, said. These will help your doctor rule out any of the more serious complications possible and ensure they have every chance to restore your hearing to normal.
Listen to what your body tells you. Don’t ignore ear pain just because you think you’re too old for ear infections.
This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. To make an appointment with Dr. Kilde or any of CEENTA’s ENT doctors, call 704-295-3000. You can also schedule an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.
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