Many of us associate ear infections with children, especially very young ones.
It’s true that children are more likely to get ear infections because of the size and shape of the tube that runs between the middle ear and throat, called the eustachian tube. However, people of any age can get an ear infection. Because we don’t expect older adults to get an ear infection, it can be hard to recognize them when they happen.
What Causes Ear Infections?
Bacteria or viruses that get into the middle ear cause ear infections. Often, the infection happens because of another illness, like a cold or allergies. These illnesses can make the eustachian tube swell or become congested. When that happens, the blockage can cause fluid to build up in the middle ear. Bacteria or virus in the fluid cause ear infection symptoms.
Some adults are more likely to get ear infections than others. People at greater risk for ear infection are those who have:
- Weakened immune systems.
In addition, people who smoke or who are around people when they smoke may also get ear infections.
What Are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of an ear infection in an older adult can depend on how severe the infection is as well as some other factors. Common symptoms of ear infections in adults are:
- A pressure in the ear
- A headache
- Changes in hearing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fluid drainage
Treating an Ear Infection
Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics to treat an ear infection. It’s important that the senior takes all of the antibiotics, even if the symptoms of the infection disappear before the medicine is used up. This will help keep the infection from coming back. A home care provider can remind your aging relative to take the antibiotic.
Home care can also help seniors to manage the pain of an ear infection. Some things a home care provider can do are:
-Make a Warm Compress: A home care provider can prepare a warm, damp washcloth for the senior to place over the sore ear. If the older adult isn’t able to hold the cloth to their ear, a home care provider can do it for them.
-Pain Medications: The doctor might suggest that your aging relative take over the counter pain medications to reduce pain. A home care provider can remind the senior to take them and ensure they are taking them according to the directions on the package or the doctor’s advice.
If the symptoms of the ear infection don’t resolve, the senior might need to see the doctor again. If so, home care can provide transportation to the doctor’s office.