Commonly seen in children, ear infections – also known as otitis media – can also affect adults.
Symptoms of Chronic Ear Infections
As most people can tell you, ear infections are no fun. Ear infections are common and quite uncomfortable. If you are experiencing an earache and think it may be an ear infection, check your symptoms against this list.
Symptoms of chronic ear infections in adults include:
- Earache – a sharp, sudden pain or a dull, continuous pain
- Warm drainage from the ear canal
- A feeling that one’s ear is clogged or full
- Muffled hearing
Symptoms of chronic ear infections in children include:
- Tugging at the ear
- Sleeping poorly
- Ear drainage
- Being irritable, restless, or crying while lying down
What distinguishes an ear infection as being acute or chronic is the number of times one experiences the symptoms. If this is your first time experiencing these symptoms, you likely have an acute ear infection. If you have these symptoms multiple times per year or if your symptoms last for weeks on end, you are likely experiencing chronic ear infections.
Causes of Chronic Ear Infections
The ear canal is a part of your sinuses. When your ears are healthy and working properly, air is allowed to flow freely from behind your nose and through the Eustachian tube, which keeps the middle ear clean and dry. When the Eustachian tube is blocked, moisture can become trapped in the middle ear and cause bacteria to collect. This leads to a most unpleasant ear infection.
Ear infections become chronic when moisture repeatedly gets trapped in the middle ear. This is most common in adults and children who swim frequently or have persistent allergies.
What Can I Do?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, visit your doctor. He or she will likely take a look inside your ears. If the middle ear is red and inflamed, your doctor will likely diagnose you with an ear infection.
Ear infections are caused by either bacteria or a virus. If the cause is bacterial, your doctor may prescribe you with antibiotics. However, if the cause is viral, your only option is to treat the symptoms of your ear infection as there is no cure against viruses.
To ease the discomfort of an ear infection, you can:
- Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce fever
- Apply gentler heat from a heating pad to reduce pain
- Do something to help you relax or take your mind off of the pain such as lighting a candle and resting your eyes, or reading
To prevent another ear infection from happening, be sure to have good personal hygiene habits such as washing your hands. Stopping the spread of bacteria and viruses will go a long way to reducing your risk of getting another ear infection. Talk to your doctor about any ideas he or she might have that are tailored to your specific situation such as wearing ear plugs while swimming.