Otitis media in adults

Otitis media in adults

Otitis media for adults is a common disease, but it is more common in children. This disease causes several symptoms, including ear pain and hearing problems. Treatment of inflammation in adults is often effective.

Otitis media in adults

In most cases, the term “ear infection” refers to an infection that occurs in the middle ear. The middle section of the ear is located behind the tympanic membrane (eardrum) area and contains the hearing ossicles that transmit sound vibrations to the inner ear.

Otitis media is more common in children than in adults, but otitis media can affect people of all ages, whether in the elderly or in infants.

Feeling of hearing loss or pain in one ear may be one of the signs of a middle ear infection in addition to high body temperature and general fatigue.

In advanced stages of middle ear infections, fluid draining from inside the ear may occur in different colors, such as yellow or white and brown. The fluid drainage often indicates a perforation in the tympanic membrane of the ear.

A condition associated with perforation of part of the tympanic membrane is known as chronic otitis media, which is an advanced stage of acute otitis media.

In fact, it often heals Otitis media in adults Automatically without any treatment after one to two weeks of disease, so how to treat inflammation depends on the severity of symptoms.

Read more about: Ear infection in children.

Causes of otitis media in adults

Otitis media (otitis media) occurs as a result of a bacterial or viral infection that reaches the middle part of the ear through the Eustachian tube, which is a muscular tube that connects the nasopharynx and the middle ear.

The function of this channel is to equalize the air pressure on both sides of the eardrum to prevent damage to the eardrum, in addition to draining mucous fluids from the middle ear towards the pharynx to prevent the accumulation of fluid in the ear.

Inflammation of the nasopharynx due to some diseases, such as a cold, leads to congestion and swelling in the canal, which results in blockage of the Eustachian tube. The blockage results in a collection of fluids inside the middle ear, forming a medium suitable for the growth of germs and viruses.

read more: Eustachian tube obstruction.

The eustachian tube, which connects the nasopharynx to the middle ear, is placed
This picture shows the placement of the Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the nasopharynx

Types of otitis media

Otitis media in adults is divided into several types:

acute otitis media 

Acute inflammation of the middle ear occurs suddenly and is often following a respiratory infection (such as a cold). The most important characteristic of this type is fever (heat) and pain in the ear.

serous otitis media 

This type is usually followed by acute otitis media, in which we see fluid buildup in the middle ear without signs of acute otitis such as fever or general fatigue.

The main symptom of serous otitis media in adults is hearing loss.

Chronic otitis media 

This type of fluid accumulation and recurrent ear inflammation occurs, which recurs repeatedly after treatment and is accompanied by perforation of the tympanic membrane in most cases.

The most important characteristic of it is the fluid draining from the auditory canal, and it may be associated with serious complications in the event of neglect of treatment and monitoring, such as the growth of a cholesteatoma at the expense of the marginal section of the eardrum.

Symptoms of otitis media in adults

Symptoms of an ear infection vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the infection. The most important symptoms are:

  • fever (high temperature)
  • ear pain
  • Hearing loss
  • Tinnitus and dizziness
  • Fluid drained from the patient's ear
Symptoms of otitis media in adults
Symptoms of otitis media in adults

Diagnosing an otitis media

After taking the clinical history and listening to the patient's symptoms, the otolaryngologist performs the examination through the use of an otoscope, which enables the examiner to see the tympanic membrane and look for signs of inflammation such as redness.

Through the endoscope, air can be pumped towards the eardrum to determine its ability to move. In the event of a fluid accumulation in the middle ear, the eardrum remains fixed and does not move.

The examiner may ask you to inflate with your mouth closed, as this moves the tympanic membrane in healthy people, but when the eustachian tube is closed, the membrane remains fixed.

middle ear infection pictures
Otitis media with pictures, as this picture taken with an endoscope shows redness of the eardrum as a result of an infection in the middle ear

How to treat otitis media in adults?

The method of treating otitis media in adults depends on several factors, including the age of the patient and the severity of the infection, in addition to the nature of the infection that affects the person.

The doctor determines the most appropriate treatment method according to each case. He may be satisfied with observing the symptoms of ear infection in mild cases and relieving the pain, but in more severe cases that do not improve over time, other methods are used, such as an antibiotic prescription.


According to recent studies, antibiotics are the cornerstone of Treatment of otitis media in adultsThe appropriate antibiotic is chosen according to the most common types of bacteria that cause ear infections.

Amoxicillin is the best antibiotic for otitis media for adults. It is important to follow the instructions of your specialist doctor regarding the dose of the drug and the period required to take it. One of the common mistakes that some patients make is to stop taking the drug as soon as they feel better.

Pain Relievers

The use of these medicines, which include drugs or ear drops, is useful for patients who suffer from symptoms such as ear pain and high fever.

Earache tends to become more severe while lying on the affected side and can lead to difficulty sleeping. These medications help solve this problem.

Tympanostomy tubes insertion of a middle ear ventilation tube

This method is used in the treatment of recurrent otitis media in adults due to the accumulation of fluid in the ear.

The surgeon makes a small hole in the eardrum, through which he can suction fluid from the patient’s ear, and then a small tube is placed to ventilate the middle ear and prevent the accumulation of fluid in it. It is a simple surgical procedure that can be performed in the outpatient clinic.

Installation of a ventilation tube to drain fluids and treatment of otitis media for adults
Image showing the process of installing a ventilation tube to drain fluid from the middle ear

Duration of treatment for otitis media for adults

The treatment period for uncombined otitis media is often 5 to 7 days, a course of antibiotics, if the person does not improve after this period, the type of antibiotic is changed.


Of course, otitis media for adults is not considered a serious disease, but if left untreated, it may result in high-risk complications.

Possible complications of otitis media in adults include:

Prevention of otitis media 

Here are some tips that help prevent otitis media for adults and children:

quit smoking

Studies have shown that smokers are more susceptible to ear infection, in addition to that children exposed to cigarette smoke were more likely to develop otitis media, so it is recommended to avoid smoking near children because the infection is more prevalent among them.

Allergy control

If you are allergic to a certain agent (such as pollen, animals) it is best to stay away from them and avoid triggering an allergic attack as it increases the risk of infection.

Prevention of colds

Protect yourself from exposure to low temperatures and make sure to wash your hands well and avoid contact with people who show symptoms of a cold, as most middle ear infections are after a cold, especially in children.

vaccinate children

Vaccinating young children against viral diseases such as influenza helps in the prevention process, as the prevention of viral infections protects against ear infections in children.


Natural breast milk contains antibodies that are passed on to the baby during breastfeeding, which increases the immunity of infants and protects them from contracting viruses or germs.


  1. Clevelandclinic
  2. Hopkinsmedicine
  3. NHS

Frequently Asked Questions

There is a close relationship between otitis media and dizziness, as the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear causes pressure that may reach the inner ear, as it contains the three semicircular canals responsible for the balance of the human body.

Amoxicillin is the best antibiotic to treat otitis media in adults.

Of course, otitis media is not a serious disease when properly treated. However, the appearance of severe otitis symptoms such as the discharge of purulent fluid and hearing loss becomes a high risk and an otolaryngologist should be consulted as soon as possible.

The treatment of otitis media with herbs is still not proven effective, but there are some herbs that are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, such as olive oil drops or ginger oil, which play an antibacterial role, in addition to garlic oil and tea oil.

Adult otitis media does not affect the brain in normal cases, but in some rare cases, infection may spread to areas of the brain, causing a life-threatening brain abscess, but this complication is considered extremely rare.

Choosing the best treatment for ear infection in adults depends on the severity of the symptoms and the nature of each case. The patient is resorting to other methods such as placing a ventilation tube in the ear.

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If you are planning for treatment in Turkey
you can talk to us here.