Otitis media is among those many disorders which are thought to generally affect only children but are actually found also in adults. It is a disorder of middle ear which is a crucial part of auditory system. Middle ear is a hollow chamber located behind eardrum. It is protected by a mucous membrane lining which keeps it moist. It also is linked with nose and throat through Eustachian tube. It is a sensitive structure and hence prone to infection by internal and external factors. Otitis media can either be Otitis Media with Effusion (OME) or Acute Otitis Media (AOM). The sufferers of the former exceed in number as compared to those of the later.
Causes of Otitis Media in Adults
Though, one can get affected with OME at any time of the year, but it is most common during late winter or early spring. It is normally caused by an untreated bacterial infection. The infection occurs when bacteria, allergens, dust and other objects get locked in the middle ear and have no way out. It results in inflamed mucous membrane and causes some pain. Sometimes, the cause of otitis media in adults can also be a respiratory infection. The trapped fluid in middle ear provides breeding ground for bacteria and other pathogens, thus causing infection. Moreover, passive smoking, exposure to pollutants, and nutritional deficiency make you more prone to middle ear infection. If this infection recurs, it can become chronic and the victim may suffer from it four times a year.
Symptoms of Otitis Media in Adults
It is crucial to know early symptoms of Otitis media or else, if not diagnosed, it can result in deafness or disability. Based on the symptoms, this infection can be acute or chronic. Some of the common symptoms for both of these types otitis media in adults are;
- Pain in the ear
- Tinnitus or ringing sensation
- Muffled hearing as a result for accumulation of fluid and pus in the middle ear
- Feeling of fullness in the affected ear
- Popping (ear pressure)
- Effusion or draining of fluid from the ear
- Perforated eardrum or bulging
- Formation of pus
Otitis Media Treatment in Adults
If left untreated, otitis media in adults can result in permanent damage to ear causing partial or even total loss of hearing, persistent ear infection, and tympanosclerosis, i.e. the scarring of the eardrum. These problems can be avoided only if you consult a doctor as early as possible. The specialist would perform diagnostic tests like physical examination of ear through otoscope, formal hearing test through audiometer, and tympanometry; a tool for diagnosing OME. He may also check for the physical signs like fluid on eardrum or air bubbles, dullness in eardrum etc. after diagnosis the doctor may prescribe antibiotics for treating infection, or antihistamines to reduce inflammations etc. Mucolytics and oral corticosteroids may also be used to drain the fluid. In severe cases, there might be a need for surgery.
Otitis media in adults can be a very challenging condition owing to the pain and discomfort. Consult an audiologist as soon as you notice the symptoms so that the condition does not worsen.