Common Ear Infection Symptoms to Watch Out For

woman touching ear in pain

Ear infections are most commonly associated with children. In fact, 5 out of 6 children will experience at least one ear infection by the time they are 3 years old.

However, that doesn’t mean that adults don’t get them. But they can be tough to diagnose, especially during cold and flu season. Ear pain can come with a cold, but isn’t anything to worry about, and will go away with the sickness. 

An ear infection, however, can be more serious. So how do you know the difference? Let’s take a look at the common ear infection symptoms. 

Ear Infection Symptoms

There are three types of ear infections that adults can contract. They are differentiated by location in the ear, and come with different symptoms. 

Inner Ear

Inner ear infections are characterized by:

  • Pain in the ear
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • A spinning sensation
  • Feeling unbalanced when standing or walking

Inner ear infections can be serious, and last for several weeks. They are usually caused by a virus, though not always. They can also be indicative of a more serious problem, like meningitis

If you suspect an inner ear infection, you should seek medical care at once.

Middle Ear 

Middle ear infections are more commonly caused by another condition. For example, colds, the flu, allergies, or upper respiratory problems. 

They are characterized by:

  • A sensation of fullness in the ear
  • Fluid drainage
  • Muffled hearing or things sounding like they’re underwater
  • Fever

Fluid trapped behind the eardrum is what causes the sensation of fullness, muffled hearing, and possible fluid drainage.

Outer Ear

An outer ear infection is commonly called swimmer’s ear. This is because the cause is often water trapped in the ear after swimming (or bathing). 

Bacteria loves moisture and dark places, so your ear becomes a perfect environment for it to grow and flourish. Thus, if you scratch or irritate the ear, bacteria can get inside and spread.

The symptoms of this type of ear infection include:

  • A rash that is itchy
  • Ear pain
  • A swollen ear
  • Redness
  • Tenderness

You may need antibiotics to treat an outer ear infection. However, sometimes they can be caused by a virus. In that case, you have to wait for it to clear up on its own. You can help it along by keeping it clean and using anti-inflammatory or anti-microbial medications.

Treatment and Diagnosis

This overview of ear infection symptoms can help you determine if you need to seek medical attention for your ear pain. In some cases, the ear infection will clear up on its own (or it isn’t an ear infection at all). 

However, the best way to get an accurate diagnosis is to see a healthcare professional. They will be able to determine whether the infection is viral or bacterial, and whether you’ll need antibiotics or not.

If you’re concerned that you have an ear infection that needs treatment, feel free to drop in, or contact us at Coastal Urgent Care of Houma today!