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Infections of the Middle Ear in Adults: Causes and Treatment Options

written by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 3/31/2009

Ear infections in adults are less common than in children but they can still occur. Find out what causes the infection and symptoms.

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    Ear infections are a common childhood malady that can lead to many sleepless nights and trips to the docotr for children and parents alike. Ear infections in children are very common due to the anatomy of the child's ear and the likelihood of passing infections at daycare centers and schools. Middle ear infections in adults are less common and can be the result of damage to the inner ear or problems with the Eusctachian tubes in the ears. Understanding the symptoms of an inner ear infection can help you to determine when a visit to the doctor is necessary so that you can be treated before a more serious problem develops.

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    Common Causes

    There are several causes of middle ear infection in adults. The common cold can cause fluid to build up in the Eustachian tubes. When this fluid is allowed to accumulate, bacteria can cause the fluid to become infected, leading to a middle ear infection. Adults who have frequent sinus problems are also susceptible to developing a middle ear infection. Post nasal drip, which is a major symptom of a sinus infection, can become trapped in the Eustachian tubes and allow a middle ear infection in adults to develop.

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    Complications of Middle Ear Infection in Adults

    Middle ear infection in adults can cause several complications. Pressure and pain are the most common and are the result of fluid accumulating in the ear. Temporary hearing loss can also occur because sound is dulled when fluid has accumulated in the ear. Left untreated, middle ear infection in adults can cause more permanent hearing loss.

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    Symptoms of an Inner Ear Infection

    The major symptoms of an inner ear infection include pain, pressure, and the sensation of fluid moving around the ear canal. An adult with an inner ear infection may also experience a fever, which is the body's natural response to any type of infection. Once the symptoms of an inner ear infection are noted, they should be reported to the doctor if they persist.

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    Treatment for Middle Ear Infection in Adults

    Treatments for middle ear infection in adults focus on removing the cause of the infection as well as treating the symptoms of the infection. Pain and fever may be remedied with the use of an over the counter drug such as acetominophen. Fluid may be drained with the use of a nasal decongestant. The infection itself may be treated with a broad spectrum antibiotic that is known for working to clear up middle ear infection in adults.

    If you notice the symptoms of an inner ear infection, contact your doctor so that you can treat the infection and avoid some of the complications associated with middle ear infection in adults.