Health > Ear Infection in Elderly: Symptoms, Treatment, Causes, Relief
12th Jul 2021

Ear Infection in Elderly: Symptoms, Treatment, Causes, Relief

An ear infection is a very common issue among older adults, which can further lead to a more serious issue. Certain actions and conditions put some elders at more threat for ear infections and problems than others. The signs and symptoms of ear infections in seniors should be closely observed and detected by a physician to evade any complications. There may be a variety of issues, causing a difference in hearing such as certain medical conditions. Often, ear infections in the elderly can vanish by themselves. However, in some cases, treatment is required. There are many useful steps and tricks that can be used for prevention and treatment.

Knowing about the ear infection symptoms, types, causes, and treatment will help you to take better care of the older people in your home.

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Types of Ear Infections

Outer ear infections

Also known as Swimmer’s Ear and Otitis Externa, an outer ear infection is a common ear condition related to the outer part of the ear. This outer area has the ear passage on the outer part of the eardrum up to the ear opening. The initial sign of the outer ear infection is an itchy rash. Bacteria and germs can collect in the dark ear canal, causing infection in older adults. Often, an infection in the outer ear area grows when water gets stuck and does not deplete. The condition of fungal ear infections is also related to the outer ear. This type of ear infection is caused by an injury or trauma inside the ear, such as using a fingernail or hard thin stick to clean the ear. So, older adults must be cautious when cleaning their ears.

Symptoms of outer ear infection

•    A red or inflamed ear canal
•    Pain in the ear
•    Discharge from the ear
•    Itching
•    Reduced hearing

Middle Ear Infections

A middle ear infection is also known as otitis media that occurs when a bacteria or virus causes inflammation behind the area of the eardrum. This type of ear infection is caused by upper respiratory problems like throat infection, sinus, cold, flu, or allergies, as the bacteria or germs can reach the linked passageways and into the eustachian tubes. Middle ear infections can go away without using any medicines. However, one may need medical treatment in case pain persists or the person starts getting the fever.

Symptoms of Middle ear infection

•    Congestion
•    Problems hearing
•    Tugging or pulling at the ears
•    Ear pain
•    Difficulty sleeping
•    Fever
•    Nausea and vomiting
•    Clear, bloody, or yellow discharge from the ears

Inner Ear Infection

The inner ear has the cochlea, which gets the signals and changes them into a message your brain can perceive sound. The inner ear is accountable for hearing and balance. However, any problems with these senses can be associated with an infection in this area. Also known as Labyrinthitis, the inside ear infection is caused by inflammation or pain in the ear parts that are in charge of balance and hearing.

Symptoms of Inner ear infection

•    Ear pain
•    Dizziness
•    Ringing in the ear
•    Spinning sensation
•    Issues with balance
•    Headaches
•    Trouble hearing

Ear Infection Complications in seniors

Ear infections that occur repeatedly can lead to severe complications in older adults. In adults and seniors, these infections should not be ignored as they can cause damage to the hearing. Moreover, an ear infection in elderly people could extend to other parts of the body, if left untreated. These complications include:

•    Tearing of the eardrum
•    Spread of infection
•    Impaired hearing
•    Re-occurrence of the infection

Ear Infection Treatment

Proper treatment for ear infections can prevent the risks of any complications. Depending on the type and ear infection causes, some infections can vanish without treatment. You should normally check whether symptoms of ear infections in seniors have improved or not within 3 days. Later, when symptoms like fever or loss of balance happen, you must seek medical attention for them. The doctor will ask about the medical history and all the signs and symptoms to make a proper diagnosis. The doctor may also use a device called an otoscope to check inside the ear canal and eardrum for infection signs. This process may go along with a small puff of air to check the reaction of the eardrum. Depending on the ear infection types, causes and symptoms, the doctor will suggest the best medicine for ear infection.

Ear Infection Relief

If an ear infection is not severe, or in the initial stage, you can try the following tips to get relief from an ear infection.

Use Ear drops

Ear drops are an effective way to reduce pressure and pain in the ear due to fluid and earwax. However, ear drops are no replacement for antibiotics or prescription ear drops, so they should be used only for a few days, and if symptoms appear again, it is vital to see a doctor. Also, when you decide to use an ear drop, read the directions carefully or speak to a doctor before using ear drops on older adults.


A mild and gentle massage can reduce the ear pain that spread out to the jaw or teeth, or pain, causing a tension headache. You can massage the tender area and any surrounding muscles that hurt. A gentle massage can also reduce the pain and discomfort of an ear infection.

Cold pack

This is an effective way to avoid the pain caused by ear infections. To apply a cold pack, you need to wrap an ice cube in a tissue or a soft light cloth and keep this pack to the ear and the area instantly below the ear for 15-20 minutes.


Applying heat or warm compress to the affected ear can also decrease the pain and inflammation in the ear. You can use a hot pack or an electric heating pad for 20 minutes. Make sure, elderly people do not fall asleep with a heating pad.

Ear infection –Prevention Tips

•    Avoid poking and prodding in the ear
•    Practice good hygiene
•    Dry your ears after taking a shower or swimming
•    Avoid smoking
•    Avoid any allergy triggers

Importance of Elder Car

Old age is a sensitive stage of life when people need extra care and attention to live a healthy life without any anxiety and stress. If you are unable to be there with your older adults at home, due to work commitments and a busy schedule, elder care from a professional would be a good idea.

At Emoha, we provide the best elderly care at home. As an expert home health agency, Emoha has highly experienced caregivers and nurses who accurately understand the different needs of elders and provide specialized care and support services. For us, it is always #EldersFirst