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Senior Care Awareness: Recognizing Symptoms of a Middle Ear Infection

Senior Care in Westwood MA

Doctor checking elderly woman's earAn ear infection can be one of the most painful and troublesome common illnesses that you can encounter during your senior care journey with your elderly loved one. This type of infection, referred to as acute otitis media, most often occurs in the middle area of the ear, which is why you may also hear the doctor refer to it as a “middle ear infection.” Generally caused by viral or bacterial infection within the space behind the eardrum, these infections are more common among children but can, and do, occur within adults as well.

The primary cause of the pain in an ear infection is the buildup of fluid and inflammation within this middle ear area. This section of the ear contains the tiny bones of the ear structure that vibrate in order to relay sound to the brain. The fluids and inflammation press on these bones as well as other elements of the structure and cause pain, discomfort, and a feeling of fullness.

Often these infections are relatively mild and tend to remediate themselves, not necessitating any sort of serious or extensive treatment other than those measures to ease the discomfort. If your elderly parent is suffering from serious symptoms, the infection has persisted for an extensive time, or she continuously deals with repeat infections, however, this could lead to far more serious consequences including loss of hearing, more extensive infection, and other problems.

Though some of the symptoms of an ear infection are fairly straightforward and easy to recognize, others are less evident and not as easy to immediately link to an infection within the middle ear. This is why it is important to be vigilant about your parent’s health, well-being, and behaviors so that you can detect issues and get attention for them as quickly as possible. If you or your parent’s non-medical caregiver notice any of these symptoms in your aging parent, it could be an ear infection so get in touch with her doctor as soon as possible for a thorough examination and proper diagnosis:

  • Unexplained hearing loss or increased difficulty hearing
  • Complaints of pain in the ear
  • Drainage or a foul smell coming from the ear
  • Fever

Remember that seniors who are dealing with cognitive limitations such as those associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia may not be able to communicate what they are feeling in the same ways as those who do not have these limitations and may express their pain and discomfort through their behaviors rather than through actually telling you what they are experiencing. If your parent does have these challenges, look out for other signs that may indicate that she is suffering from an ear infection, such as:

  • Tugging at her ear
  • Rubbing her ear against a pillow or article of clothing
  • Cradling her ear
  • Irritability or shortness of temper
  • “Jumpiness” or agitation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • More resistance to getting into a shower or to washing her hair, particularly if the symptoms arose soon after a shower, bath, or swimming.

If you or an aging loved one are considering non-medical in-home care in Metrowest Boston, MA, call Griswold Home Care and speak to one of our caring staff members today. Call (781) 559-0073