Have you heard of otitis media? It is the medical term for a middle ear infection. While middle ear infections are very common in young children, adults can develop this painful and potentially damaging problem, too. It can even cause long-term damange if it becomes chronic. Here’s what to know about adult ear infection symptoms, causes and treatments.
Causes and Symptoms of Adult Ear Infections
As fluid accumulates in the middle ear just behind the eardrum, it can become infected with bacteria or viruses from a cold, the flu or other acute upper respiratory illness. This infected fluid causes:
- Ear pain
- A feeling of ear fullness
- Muffled hearing
- Fluid drainage
- Inability to sleep
- Balance problems
Some cases of otitis media clear on their own while others increase in severity or even become recurrent. These chronic adult ear infections can cause permanent hearing loss.
Evaluating Adult Ear Infection Symptoms
During your in-office consultation, your ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) will ask you to detail your ear symptoms, how long you have had them and if they recur. You’ll also discuss your medical history and current medications.
To examine your ear, the ENT will gently insert the tip of a lighted otoscope into your ear canal. This scope allows the physician to view the interior structures, including the eardrum. It also may introduce a light puff of air into the canal to assess the movement of the eardrum.
Also, your ear, nose and throat specialist may do a painless test called a tympanogram. Tympanography sends sound waves into the ear canal to assess how well the eardrum responds to them. These easy tests help your ENT determine if you have accumulated fluid and what effect it may have on your hearing.
Treatment Options for Adult Ear Infections
As previously stated, many ear infections in adults clear by themselves. Others, however, require treatment to avoid damage and to relieve the sometimes very uncomfortable symptoms.
Also, untreated otitis media can lead to other acute health problems–meningitis being just one example. So, a care plan developed by a skilled ENT is essential to healing and preservation of hearing.
Treatment options can include the following:
- Pain relievers
- Myringotomy, a simple incision placed in the eardrum to release built-up fluid
- Eustachian tube balloon dilation
Eustachian tube balloon dilation is a simple in-office procedure. The Eustachian tube is the passageway between the middle ear and the throat.
This tube can flatten and close with repeat ear infections. So, the ENT can insert a thin tube through the nostril on the affected side and advance it to the eustachian tube. A small balloon is filled with saline to expand the eustachian tube walls and effectively open the tube. This procedure may be needed just one time but can be repeated as need arises.
Ear Infection Treatment in Georgetown, TX
At Georgetown ENT, our board-certified otolaryngologist is Dr. Scott William Franklin. He is an expert on a number of effective ENT procedures which provide his patients with real symptom relief and return of function.
If you are suffering with chronic ear infections, please contact our office to arrange a personalized consultation with Dr. Franklin by calling us at (512) 869-0604. Additionally, you may request a visit online. We look forward to making your chronic ear infections a thing of the past!