Originally published: 02 November 2019
Updated: 29 November 2021
Ear infections are more often seen in children than adults, although untreated infections in adults can be more serious. An adult ear infection should be carefully diagnosed and monitored by a physician to lower the risks of problems. There are certain factors, which put some people at a higher risk of developing ear infections. However, you can use effective treatments and preventive measures to lower the risk of hearing loss complications. Check out Hearing Group’s guidelines about symptoms, causes, and treatment options for ear infections.
Signs and Symptoms That Might Point to an Ear Infection
The ear is a sensitive part of the body that is made up of several different chambers. Ear infections may strike any of these chambers. When left untreated, the infections may result in many other signs and symptoms. The main chambers of the ear are:
- The inner ear
- The middle ear
- The outer ear.
The middle and outer parts of the ear are at higher risk of infection. Signs and symptoms of ear infections vary in adults, depending on the area infected. If they occur, you might experience some of the following symptoms:
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Hearing difficulty
- Drainage from the ear
- Body language
- Tenderness to touch
- Hearing changes.
If you experience drainage from your ear, it indicates a possibly severe issue, and you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
Factors That Increase the Risk of Ear Infections
Children get ear infections more easily than adults. This is because the Eustachian tubes in children are smaller and lie horizontally compared to adults. If you have smaller Eustachian tubes as an adult, you could also be at higher risk.
Additionally, if you are an active smoker or live among people who smoke, you are more likely to get ear infections. People who experience seasonal allergies or upper respiratory diseases (such as influenza) are also at higher risk.
When You Should See a Doctor
Most of the infections on the ear heal on their own without medical treatment. Hence, if you only detect earache symptoms, you might wait for several days to evaluate the pain before deciding to see a doctor. If the ear pain doesn’t go away after two to three days, and you start experiencing fever, you should seek medical attention immediately. Furthermore, the presence of draining fluid or difficulty hearing may be a sign of severe underlying infection, and you should notify your medical professional.
How Long Can Hearing Loss After an Ear Infection last?
Hearing loss caused by a middle ear infection is generally only temporary. Once the fluid drains out of the middle ear, hearing returns to normal. With most cases of otitis media, hearing will return to normal within 48 to 72 hours. However, fluid can become trapped in the middle ear for as long as three months. You may experience difficulty hearing until all the fluid has left the middle ear.
Diagnosis of Ear Infections and Hearing Loss
A diagnosis will take account of your previous health history and your current symptoms. Your doctor might use an otoscope to check your outer ear and eardrum. An otoscope is a handheld device with magnifying lenses. Hearing professionals use this to check the health of your ears. A special otoscope, known as pneumatic, emits a puff of air in the eardrum. How the air reacts in the eardrum can help to diagnose the type of problem in the ear. A Tympanometer is another device that hearing professionals may use to evaluate your ear.
Treatment Options for Ear Infections
Treatment options for ear infections will vary depending on where the infection is located. Antibiotics are the most common drugs doctors use to treat infections in the middle and outer ear. This treatment should eliminate all ear symptoms. Untreated ear infections may put you at risk of having permanent hearing loss. There is also a risk of the infection spreading to other parts of the head.
Preventive Measures for Ear Infections
- To lower the chances of an ear infection, be sure to use the following tips:
- Regularly clean and dry your ears.
- Stop smoking and keep a safe distance from someone smoking.
- Wash your hands regularly.
- Avoid people with upper respiratory infections until they are well again.
- Control your allergies by avoiding triggers and taking allergy medications as prescribed.
Contact Your Hearing Specialist
If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing due to an ear infection and struggle with communication, get in touch with Hearing Group. We have nine local hearing aid centers throughout Oklahoma and Kansas that provide comprehensive hearing health services and always put you first.
Contact your local Hearing Group store and organize your visit. Find out how our hearing specialists can help look after your hearing health.