What are the Common Symptoms of Earache in Adults?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2016
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Earache in adults can cause symptoms very similar to those of earache in children. Dizziness, fever, pain in the ear, hearing loss and ear discharge can all be common symptoms. Adults often get earaches when upper respiratory tract infections cause fluid to build up in the eustachian tubes of the middle ear. Viruses and bacteria can easily infect these fluid deposits, causing middle ear infection or otitis media. Adults with sensitive ears may experience recurrent infections of the ear canal, known as outer ear infections or otitis externa.

The symptoms of earache in adults typically include pain in the ear, which can intensify when the jaw is moved. The ear may feel blocked and hearing loss can occur, although it is often temporary. Fever can occur if the earache is the result of infection, and discharge may be seen if the infection is in the outer ear or ear canal.


Left untreated, earache in adults or children can cause permanent damage to hearing. Infections in the outer or middle ear can spread to the inner ear, damaging the nerves and structures of the ear responsible for transmitting sound signals to the brain. Medical attention is usually advised if any of the serious symptoms of earache occur. These symptoms typically include dizziness, very high fever, excessive amounts of pain or feelings of extreme illness more severe than might be expected with an earache. Swelling that spreads to areas surrounding the ear, muscle weakness in the face, or sudden, sharp pain in the ear may indicate a need for immediate medical attention.

If ear infection spreads to the inner ear, symptoms can include headache, ringing in the ears, nausea, and vomiting. Inner ear infections can affect patients' equilibrium, making physical balance difficult or impossible. Hearing loss can occur and may be permanent.

Treating earache in adults may involve a combination of antibiotic drugs and pain-relieving drugs. Some earaches may not need any treatment, as most mild to moderate earaches clear up on their own. Over-the-counter ear drops may be used to help reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain in the ear, even if prescription drugs aren't necessary. Unless ear pain is very severe, over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen will most likely be recommended to help manage pain.


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