Treatment of Acute Otitis Media in Adults

Acute otitis media is a viral or bacterial infection of the middle ear. It is the most common infection by which antibiotics are prescribed in children residing in the United States.

Causes of otitis media

Otitis media is caused by a virus or bacteria that causes an accumulation of fluid behind the eardrum. This condition can result from a cold, allergy or a respiratory infection.

The accumulation of fluid in the middle ear during otitis media causes ear pain, swelling and redness, which is called acute otitis media, and also prevents the eardrum from vibrating adequately, which often results in (temporary) hearing problems.

The fluid that remains in the middle ear produces severe otitis media or middle ear infection. This condition can become chronic, produce acute infections repeatedly, and eventually cause hearing difficulties. Otitis media can also cause ruptured eardrums.

Diagnosis and treatment of acute otitis media

For the diagnosis of acute otitis media, specific signs and symptoms should be considered, such as otalgia, acute otorrhea or otoscopy with unambiguous inflammation data. The eardrum hyperemic, opaque and bulging can be observed with poor motility.

The use of home instruments such as needles often push the wax deeper into the ear canal as well as increasing the possibility of trauma.


The overall incidence of complications of otitis media is low. Complications of the central nervous system occur in 1 adult per 100,000 per year.

Mild to moderate hearing loss occurs in half of patients with chronic suppurative otitis.


The usual treatment of acute otitis media is performed with antibiotics for ten or fourteen days.

Usually, with antibiotic treatment the symptomatology improves significantly in 48 hours. In addition, the specialist may also prescribe nasal and mucolytic decongestants if needed.

When episodes of acute otitis media are very frequent and it is suspected that there are sources of infection, such as chronic adenoiditis, chronic sinusitis or immunological immaturity, a treatment should be established that is as specific as possible.

In many cases, repeated episodes of otitis media occur along with symptoms of adenoiditis and adenoid hypertrophy, so the removal of hypertrophic adenoid tissue and the placement of transtympanic drainage tubes should be performed.

Adults can also get otitis media and the treatment is the same as for children.