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

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  • Written By: Marisa O'Connor
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 30 January 2019
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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, vomiting, fever, and ear leakage are also common symptoms of an adult ear infection.

Ear pain is the most common symptom of an ear infection. Pain from an ear infection can range 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 an ear infection. 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 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 cause 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.


An ear infection can also cause the ear canal to become red and swollen and have 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. A physician will probably be the one who notices this symptom.

Hearing loss, popping, or ringing in the ear usually accompany an adult ear infection. 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 an 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 an adult ear infection. The fever indicates the body is overheating. When an infection occurs anywhere in the body, it triggers an immune system response, which often drains the body of energy. Body temperature higher than 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) indicates a fever. Chills and sometimes hallucinations can occur from a fever.

An ear infection in an adult may also 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 an infection is present. It usually occurs in cases of otitis media with effusion. This distinction means 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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