What You Should Know About Adult Earache

Is it a long time since you awoke with a severe, searing earache? Have they been so long that you can’t recall where you last saw a heating pad, the kind your mother used to place on the side of your face carefully?

Consider yourself fortunate but not necessarily exempt. Although ear infections are more common in children, adults account for roughly 20% of all cases.

Bad news for those who felt we were finally out of this stage. The good news is that in most circumstances, there are simple solutions to the problem and even more straightforward strategies to avoid the usual blunders that can land even the most responsible individuals in the recliner of an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor.

What Is The Most Prevalent Type Of Adult Ear Infection?

The most frequent adult ear infection is an outer ear infection (otitis externa). Anyone of any age, with or without a history of ear infections, can be affected.

External ear infections are often known as swimmers’ ears since they are usually caused by moisture entering the body from outside. The ear canal is a warm, moist part of the body that is ideal for the growth of bacteria and fungi and an accessible entry site for moisture.

Adults with eczema in their ear canal or who routinely insert cotton swabs into their ear canal are more prone to otitis externa.

what you should know about adult earache

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How Do Cotton Swabs Promote External Ear Infections?

Earwax is the body’s natural defence mechanism for intercepting and inhibiting the growth of microorganisms that have infiltrated the ear. Using cotton swabs, earwax is frequently pushed deeper into the ear canal.

This earwax can trap water or moisture deep within the ear canal, allowing infection to flourish.

So we shouldn’t use cotton swabs to clean our ears or remove earwax.

Cotton swabs can cause pinna infections and irritation to the ear canal or eardrum, which can impair hearing and induce various types of infections and ear pain.

Furthermore, a piece of the swab may break off and leave a foreign body in the ear that must be removed. This is a common reason for an emergency room visit.

If you believe earwax has gathered, I propose gently wiping the entrance to the ear with paper tissue or a soft, thin cloth.

Debrox® earwax removal kits are also available over-the-counter and are safe if used as instructed.

Can You Acquire An Outer Ear Infection If You Exercise A Lot?

It’s not frequent, but it does exist.

Swimmer’s ear is so named since that is usually what causes it. However, moisture can enter the ear through showering, bathing, rain or sweat drops, or even extreme humidity.

Bacteria typically cause outer ear infections, but they can also be caused by fungi, such as the fungus that causes an athlete’s foot.

What recommendations would you give to folks who believe they have wetness in their ears?

You can tell if there is water in your ear. If you detect it, move your head to the side and try shaking the water or letting it drain.

You can also use a tissue or a thin, dry cloth wrapped around your finger to wipe the opening of your ear while turning your head to the side. If you are still experiencing symptoms or have a history of recurring ear infections, apply drops to dry out your ears.

Swim-EAR® and other brands are available over the counter, or you can learn how to manufacture them yourself by combining rubbing alcohol and vinegar. A cool or warm hair dryer might also help.

How Are Infections Of The Outer Ear Treated?

The majority of otolaryngologists and general practitioners exclusively administer antibiotic ear drops.

Oral antibiotics are usually unnecessary, and we want to avoid over-prescribing them to remain effective when we need them.

Sometimes the ear entrance is too inflamed or blocked to allow the drops to enter, so we have to insert a little wick to get the drips where they need to go.

The doctor may prescribe oral medicines if the outer ear infection is severe.

What Other Sorts Of Ear Infections Do Adults Get?

A middle ear infection, often known as otitis media, is most common in children, although it can also affect adults. When viruses or bacteria penetrate the middle ear (the space behind the eardrum), they cause an ear infection.

Pus or diseased fluid fills the middle ear. The pus presses against the eardrum, which can be excruciatingly painful. Swelling in one or both Eustachian tubes causes middle ear infections.

To maintain constant pressure in the middle ear, the Eustachian tubes, which run from the ear canal to the back of the throat, act as drain valves. Disrupting this system can result in the emergence of infections.

young man looking at camera

What Is The Distinction Between Middle Ear Infections In Children And Adults?

Typically, the fundamental causes differ. Children are more prone to have them because their shorter, horizontal Eustachian tubes are more susceptible to obstructions.

Furthermore, their adenoids are more significant than the rest of the throat and can clog the Eustachian tube entrance. Finally, because children’s immune systems are still developing, colds and viruses are frequently spread in childcare facilities and schools.

So, What Are The Causes Of Adult Middle Ear Infections?

In adults, they are frequently caused by nasal or throat irritation, such as sinusitis, strep throat, a cold or flu, or if the patient has acid reflux, severe seasonal allergies, is a smoker, or has been exposed to secondhand smoke.

Nasopharyngeal inflammation causes Eustachian tube dysfunction, which in turn causes fluid to accumulate in the middle ear, which can then become infected.

Patients with numerous middle ear infections as children may continue to get them as adults. Something about the architecture or physiology of these tubes has never been thoroughly explained.

How Can Middle Ear Infections Get Better?

Oral medicines are the first line of defence against middle ear infections. If the pain is severe, steroids may be used. While steroids will not help remove the infection faster, they will lessen the inflammation and pressure causing the pain.

If your ear still hurts or feels full after several days of standard treatment, you should see an otolaryngologist, who may recommend other drugs or cut up the eardrum to remove the fluid.

You may require a tube inserted in your ear if you have recurrent middle ear infections, like children.

Is there a difference between getting ear tubes as an adult and a child? Do you still have to refrain from swimming?

The mechanism is the same for both children and adults. In the water, you must still take the necessary measures.

You can swim, but earplugs or a swim band may be necessary to keep the water out. The primary distinction is that adults can use an ear tube in the office without difficulty.

There is no need for surgery or general anaesthesia, as is usual with children.

There is also a new procedure for inserting ear tubes in children that allows us to accomplish it swiftly and merely with a local anaesthetic. As a result, we can do it in the clinic.

Are There Any Other Recent Advancements In The Treatment Of Ear Infections?

I’ve been performing Eustachian tube dilatation for a few years. A balloon is put into the Eustachian tube, inflated, and left in situ for up to two minutes under endoscopic guidance through the nose.

This can cure the Eustachian tube dysfunction that causes middle ear infections. It only works in approximately half of the patients I’ve tried it on, so it’s only for some.

However, because it is non-invasive, it is an excellent beginning point for certain eligible people.

There’s also a new medicine that looks like a gel and can be injected into the ear canal. It dissolves slowly and may be easier to reach congested regions than standard drops.

Are There Any Other Sorts Of Ear Infections That People Can Get?

There is a condition known as an inner ear infection. Inner ear infections are distinct from outer and middle ear infections and are far less common.

We typically see them in grownups. Hearing loss, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting are common symptoms of inner ear infections. If you have these symptoms, you should rest and refrain from driving, making sudden movements, or consuming alcohol.

Inner ear infections typically resolve on their own within a few days. However, you should consult your family doctor or an ENT specialist if the symptoms persist.

Note: If you experience sudden hearing loss in one ear, consult your doctor or call 911 immediately since testing must be performed soon.

Nothing should go in your ears! Even if you have diabetes, you should avoid ear infections at all costs.

They can be far more persistent, severe, and resistant to therapy. If this is the situation for you, keep your blood sugar under control, as this might significantly impact your body’s ability to fight the infection.

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