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What is the Treatment for Otitis Media in Adults?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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In most cases, the treatment for otitis media in adults is similar to the treatment for the condition in children. Otitis media is an infection of the middle ear, and doctors often treat it with antibiotic drugs. In some cases, however, a doctor may recommend a wait-and-see period that lasts for a day or two prior to treatment. The idea of this waiting period is usually to give the body a chance to fight the bacterial infection on its own. If an adult has reoccurring bouts with otitis media, a doctor may recommend surgery instead.

Antibiotic medications are the most common treatments used for otitis media in adults. Usually, the antibiotics are administered orally, and this type of treatment may provide symptom relief within a day or two of starting it. Doctors, however, usually advise patients to finish taking all of their otitis media medication, even if they start to feel better quickly. Ending the prescribed treatment prematurely may allow the bacteria to regrow and become resistant to the antibiotic medication.

Some doctors are reluctant to immediately prescribe antibiotics at the first sign of otitis media in adults. Instead, a doctor may recommend a short period of waiting before the patient starts taking antibiotic medication. It is possible that a person’s body will successfully fight the infection on its own, so some doctors may wish to wait a day or two to see whether any improvement occurs without medication. In the event that the patient’s condition does not improve, a doctor is likely to prescribe treatment with antibiotics.

Surgery is often the preferred method of treatment for chronic or reoccurring otitis media in adults. Sometimes surgery is used to place small tubes in a person’s ears to facilitate the drainage of fluid and prevent the development of new ear infections. Viral causes are often at fault when a person has reoccurring ear infections that require the placement of tubes, and antibiotics are not effective for treating viral ear infections. When an ear infection is caused by bacteria, however, it often clears up after one course of antibiotic treatment and does not return.

Sometimes surgical treatment for otitis media in adults is focused on removal of the adenoids, which form the lumpy tissue at the back of a person's throat. Infected adenoids can contribute to the development of ear infections. Sometimes the surgical removal of nasal polyps proves helpful as well.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On Feb 26, 2014

My husband had a fairly serious case of otitis media several years ago. He let it go, but it did not resolve, which resulted in a midnight trip to the ER and a round of antibiotics, which we couldn't get filled until the following morning.

His hearing had become impaired in that ear, and he wondered if it was ever going to come back. It took about three weeks and two rounds of antibiotics before he started hearing in that ear.

The moral of the story is to see a doctor if the pain in your ears lasts more than a couple of days. That's just common sense.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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