Though adults are not affected as frequently as children, it is important for adults to be aware of how adult ear infection can affect them. Adult ear infection is caused by the infection in the Eustachian tube, near the inner ear. The Eustachian tube connects the inner ear to the nasal passages in order to drain fluid from the ears and equalize pressure between outside and inside of the body, but when fluid or mucous builds up in the Eustachian tube, it is an easy target for infection.
There are many situations in which adult ear infection can surface. A cold can cause fluid build up and infection in the Eustachian tube. Post nasal drip may also contribute. An adult does not necessarily need to be sick to get an adult ear infection. Often, the infection is caused by mucous being blown into the Eustachian tubes by blowing the nose or failing to clean the liquid out of the ear with a cotton swab after showering.
In one of every four cases in children, the ear infection is not caused by a bacterial infection but by a viral infection. Viruses often cause adult ear infection as well. Viral infections are much more difficult to eliminate.
Adult Ear Infection Complications
However adult ear infections are contracted there are complications to be aware of. If these complications are caught early, the infection can be more easily dealt with. Complications associated with adult ear infection include fluid in the ear, pressure, and pain.
Part of the reason for the pressure and pain is that the tissue in the inner ear swells due to infection or trapped fluid. Often, the adenoids also swell due to infection. The swelling pushes into the ear.
Other complications include temporary hearing loss. The sound is obstructed due to the swelling, but no damage is actually done to the inner ear when the infection is treated. Even after the pressure is relieved and the infection has subsided, fluid may build up permanently in parts of the ear.
Ear Infection Treatments
Whether bacterial or viral, the adult ear infection may be treated and any buildup removed. With bacterial infections, antibiotics are necessary. Fortunately, bacterial infections can be very simple to treat.
Viral infections are more complicated to treat and may necessitate a myringotomy, which is a minor surgery in which a small plastic tube is inserted into the eardrum. This acts as a vent to relieve the pressure of the buildup or infection. It also drains the fluid remaining in the ear. This little tube is not permanent; it falls out automatically after a short time.
If the adenoids have caused the build-up and the infections in the ear, they may need to be removed. They are just like tonsils in that they aren’t necessary and can easily be removed without complications.
Prevention of adult ear infection is simple. Nasal spray flushes out bacteria and pollutants which could cause build up and infection. Even allergens can be washed out. The important element necessary in an effective nasal spray is xylitol, which naturally repels bacteria before it has a chance to settle into the nasal tissue.
Chewing gum containing xylitol may also loosen and relieve pressure in the ear while at the same time releasing xylitol into the mouth and throat and preventing bacteria to move up to the nasal passages and into the ear. Studies have proven the use of xylitol-rich gum reduces the risk of ear infection.