Ear infections are more often seen in children than in adults, although untreated infections in adults can be more serious. Infection of an adult ear 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, there are effective treatments and preventive measures that can be used to lower the risk of hearing loss complications. Below are 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. Infections of the ear may strike any of these chambers. When left untreated, the infections may result in many different 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 infection vary in adults, depending on the area infected. If they occur, you might experience some of the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Hearing difficulty
- Drainage from the ear
- Tenderness to touch
- Hearing changes
If you experience drainage from your ear, it is an indication of a possibly severe issue, and you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
Factors That Increase the Risk of Ear Infection
Children get ear infections more easily than adults. This is because the Eustachian tubes in children are smaller and lie horizontally compared to adults. As an adult, if you have smaller Eustachian tubes, you could also be at a higher risk.
Additionally, if you are an active smoker or you live among people who smoke, you are more likely to get ear infections. People who experience seasonal allergies or upper respiratory infections (such as influenza) are also at a 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.
Diagnosis of Ear Infections & Hearing Loss
A diagnosis will take account of your previous health history as well as the 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, is capable of emitting 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 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 the risk of having permanent loss of hearing. There is also a risk of the infection spreading to other parts of the head.
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
If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing due to an ear infection and are struggling with communication, contact us today. We provide comprehensive hearing health services and we’re here to help!