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.

What is an ear infection?

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.

What are the symptoms of an adult ear infection?

Symptoms of adult ear infections include ear pain, muffled hearing, a feeling of fullness in the ear, ear drainage, and nausea.

How can I prevent an adult ear infection?

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.

Why and how should I treat my ear infection?

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.

Other causes of ear pain

CEENTA ENT doctor John Kilde, MD

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 request an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.


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May 28, 2019

I have been to emergency two time in one month my ear hurts my glands are so sore. Dr. Told me I had a urinary infection. But it's no getting any better. It first started when blow my nose and puncher my ear drum.
- Lance

May 28, 2019

Good afternoon. If you still have concerns about your health, we recommend seeing your doctor again, as we are unable to diagnose patients over the Internet.
Reply From: CEENTA

May 12, 2019

For as long as I can remember, several times a month I will wake in the night with intense inner ear pain. It is so bad that I cannot move my head. I literally have to use my hands to turn my head very slowly. I'm a side sleeper and this happens in both ears. After a night of this, the pain will remain for the day and then gradually subside. I have yet to find a diagnosis or relief.
- Tiffiny

May 13, 2019

Good morning. If you have specific concerns about your health, we recommend making an appointment with a doctor, as we are unable to diagnose patients over the Internet. To make an appointment with a CEENTA physician, call 704-295-3000. Thank you.
Reply From: CEENTA

March 24, 2019

My left ear hurt me at night 1 or 2 times in a week . Why it happens ?
- Ayesha omar

March 25, 2019

Good morning. Unfortunately, we are unable to diagnose individual cases over the Internet. We recommend making an appointment with your doctor. To make an appointment with someone at CEENTA, call 704-295-3000. Thank you.
Reply From: CEENTA

January 07, 2019

My ears are itchy for 2 months now at the time I had no infection just water build up now they said my ear drum rupture I have no pain no lost hearing just say old thing itchy of ears
- LeeLee

January 08, 2019

Good morning. If you are concerned about your ears, please make an appointment with an ENT physician. You can schedule one at CEENTA by calling 704-295-3000.
Reply From: CEENTA

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