What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Ear Infection in Adults?

Ear pain is the most common symptom of an ear infection.
Adults with an ear infection may experience a mild fever and fatigue.
Fluid buildup can cause an inner ear infection.
Article Details
  • Written By: Marisa O'Connor
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 07 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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The most common symptoms of ear infection in adults are caused by fluid and pressure buildup within the ear. Pain, a red and swollen ear canal, as well as a foul smell emanating from the ear are all very common symptoms. Hearing loss, popping, or ringing in the ear; dizziness and vomiting; and fever and ear leakage are also common symptoms of an adult ear infection.

Ear pain is the most common symptom of ear infection in adults. Pain from an ear infection ranges from mild to severe. Discomfort worsens with movement of the jaw or ear lobe in the case of an outer ear infection. The pain is most often caused by an imbalance of pressure in the ear due to fluid buildup. If the eardrum has been damaged, that can also cause significant pain.

Fullness in the ear is another common symptom of ear infection in adults. The fullness is caused by fluid building up within the ear. It may feel like tilting the head should drain the fluid, but unfortunately the reason that the fluid is building up is because the drainage system has been blocked. Fluid naturally develops in the ears, and a cold or allergies usually causes an increase in fluid production. Any infection or illness that affects the sinuses can spread to the ear and block the Eustachian tubes, which are the ears' only method of draining.


Upon inspection, usually from a physician, ear infection in adults can cause the ear canal to become red and swollen with a foul smell. The redness and swelling constitute a healthy immune system response to the infection. The foul smell is caused by the fluid and bacteria buildup within the ear.

Hearing loss, popping, or ringing in the ear usually accompany an ear infection in adults. This is caused by the ear trying to regulate pressure. It can also be a sign that the eardrum has ruptured or been damaged. The eardrum is a layer of skin in the middle ear that vibrates with sound waves. It is the part of the body that is responsible for hearing. When the eardrum is damaged, temporary hearing loss may result. A ruptured eardrum is usually very painful.

Dizziness, loss of appetite, or vomiting are symptoms of ear infection in adults. Tiny bones in the inner ear are responsible for maintaining equilibrium, or balance. An ear infection, particularly otitis media, may affect those bones and result in loss of equilibrium. This can cause dizziness, loss of appetite, and even vomiting.

Fever may or may not be present with ear infection in adults. The fever indicates that the body is over-heating. When an infection occurs anywhere in the body, it triggers an immune system response, which often drains the body of energy. Body temperature more than 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) indicates a fever. Chills and sometimes hallucination can occur from a fever.

Ear infection in adults may produce pus and fluid leaking from the ears. Thick, yellow, or bloody drainage usually means the eardrum has ruptured or been damaged. This drainage is a definite sign that an infection is present. It usually occurs in cases of otitis media with effusion. This distinction means that there is a buildup of fluid behind the eardrum. If the eardrum is damaged, this fluid can drain. When blood is present, it is typically from the torn eardrum skin.


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Post 1

Can you build up an immunity to ear infections? I live in Mexico and seem to get one from the bacteria in the water all the time? Can I take anything to fight it, like Vitamin C?

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