A Look at Your Ears, Nose, and Throat
Ear Problems: Ear Infections in Adults and Kids
Adults and children get ear infections for the same reasons. Otitis media, an ear infection of the middle ear, occurs when the mucosa (the lining of the upper respiratory tract that secretes mucus) swells because of a cold, respiratory infection, or allergy, and the Eustachian tube (3) gets blocked. Adults get fewer ear infections than kids because their Eustachian tubes are bigger and more angled. If you do get infections, you may have a Eustachian tube that genetically doesn’t work correctly, Dr. Jones says. Other types of ear infections include otitis externa (an outer ear infection, or swimmer’s ear) and otitis interna (an inner ear infection).
When left untreated, an ear infection can lead to a more serious infection, permanent hearing loss, and problems with speech and language development — so speak to your doctor right away if you think you or child have an ear infection. The doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to kill the bacteria and recommend pain medications or prescription ear drops.
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