More Information on Adult Ear Infections
Bacteria or viruses that get inside the ear are the most common causes of adult ear infections. These bacteria or viruses can initially cause sore throats, colds, or other respiratory or breathing problems and then spread to the middle ear.
(Click Causes of Otitis Media for more information.)
Ear infections are less common in adults than they are in children. When adult ear infection symptoms do occur, they can include:
- Ear pain
- Hearing loss
- Feeling of blockage in the ear
These possible symptoms of an ear infection in adults are not sure signs of otitis media. Other health problems can also cause these symptoms. Anyone with possible symptoms of an ear infection should see a doctor. Only a qualified health professional can diagnose and treat the problem.
If a person has possible ear infection signs or symptoms, the doctor will conduct a physical exam to look inside the ear for inflammation or fluid and ask about the patient's personal and family medical history. In order to help make an ear infection diagnosis, the doctor may also recommend additional tests that examine the ear or hearing.
In most cases, an ear infection in an adult is treated with antibiotic medicine. Depending on the symptoms that are present, the doctor may recommend waiting for several days before beginning an antibiotic; research has shown that adult ear infections may improve by themselves without the need for antibiotics. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or other pain relievers can be used to treat any pain or fever caused by the ear infection.
Most adults start seeing improvement within two to three days. If an antibiotic was prescribed, it should be continued for the directed amount of time -- even if symptoms have improved.