How To Treat Ear Pain In Elderly People

It’s important to look after your ears at every stage of your life, but as we age, it’s natural to be more concerned about any changes. Ear pain in elderly people can be mild to severe and may be an acute infection or an ongoing problem. In most cases, it is nothing to worry about and can be easily treated. Here, we take a look at some of the causes of ear pain in elderly people, how to treat it, and how to stop it reoccurring.

Causes Of Ear Pain In Elderly People

How To Treat Ear Pain In Elderly People - Ear Care Clinic

Ear pain can be described in several different ways; it may feel like a pressure inside the ear canal, could come and go, or it may be prolonged. Some people describe ear pain as a burning sensation or as itchy and irritating. Some of the most common causes of ear pain in elderly people include:

1. Earwax Build Up

Although earwax is completely natural and necessary, too much of it can block the ear canal or put pressure on the eardrum. This can cause a feeling of fullness, which may be uncomfortable. In fact, if you’re experiencing this, you may want to consider getting ear wax removal in London. Ear wax in elderly people can build up, because as we age our ears get drier. Luckily, this is easy to treat. by removing the ear wax.

2. Perforated Eardrum

The eardrum is very delicate and excess pressure, an injury, or even a very loud noise can cause it to tear. As well as ear pain, signs of a perforated eardrum include leaking fluid or a ringing sound in the ear. An ear infection can also cause a perforated eardrum.

3. Dry Skin Conditions

Dry skin conditions like eczema or dermatitis can happen on the outside of the ear or in the ear canal, and can feel itchy or sore. Knowing how to clean elderly ears and prevent dry skin conditions can help to reduce this kind of ear pain in elderly people.

4. Ear Infections

Perhaps one of the primary causes of ear pain in elderly people, ear infections typically affect the middle ear or the outer ear but can, in the worst cases, affect both at the same time.

Ear Infections In Elderly People

Anyone can get an ear infection, and you do not have to have a history of them for one to develop. Ear infections in elderly people are usually one of two types of infection:

Otitis Externa

Otitis externa, or swimmer’s ear as it is often called, is an infection of the outer ear. Otitis externa causes ear pain in elderly people because it can create a feeling of pressure, fullness, and itchiness. A red rash may be present on the outer part of the ear and it may feel tender or swollen. Sometimes, otitis externa can produce a clear or yellow fluid that leaks from the ear.  

Otitis externa is referred to as ‘swimmer’s ear’ because it is common in people who swim regularly. This is because water can get trapped in the ear canal and the bacteria that causes the infection can start to breed. Active seniors who enjoy swimming may find they are more susceptible to otitis externa. 

Excess ear wax in elderly people can contribute to otitis externa, as the wax can trap moisture. Earbuds and hearing aids are also common culprits for causing otitis externa, as they can create small tears in the ear canal where bacteria can grow. The same goes for ear syringing procedures, which can create these tiny tears and potentially leave water in the ear. 
In very severe cases, ear pain in elderly people may be due to malignant otitis externa (or cholesteatoma), where the ear infection spreads to the base of the skull. This is more prevalent among older men and those with diabetes.

Otitis Media

Otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. The cause of otitis media is usually a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum. This can cause pressure and tension in the eardrum, which can result in ear pain in elderly people. In some cases, otitis media can even lead to a perforated eardrum. 

Otitis media is usually accompanied by an upper respiratory infection and so seniors suffering from otitis media may have a fever. As there is excess fluid in the ear, hearing loss occasionally occurs and fluid may also leak from the ear.

How To Treat Ear Pain In Elderly People - Ear Care Clinic

The build-up of fluid can happen in one or both ears and can also go on to cause otitis externa in some instances. Otitis media is more common in seniors who suffer from allergies or have recurrent respiratory infections.

Relieving Ear Pain In Elderly People

Ear pain can be very uncomfortable. There are some tried-and-tested home remedies to alleviate ear pain in elderly people while waiting for more targeted treatment.

  • Heat – holding a hot water bottle with a cover over the ear can provide some temporary relief from earache.
  • Cold – as with heat, holding a cold compress onto the affected area can take the pain away for a short time and provide some comfort. 
  • Painkillers – paracetamol can help take the edge off any ear pain and ibuprofen can also help with any swelling.
  • Massage – a gentle massage around the ear can be used to alleviate any pressure and soothe a persistent earache.
  • Ear drops – over-the-counter ear drops can help to disperse ear wax, which may help with any feelings of fullness or pressure.

Treating Ear Pain In Elderly People

The specific treatment for ear pain in elderly people will vary according to the cause. If otitis media is the reason for the ear pain, it may very well clear up on its own within about five days. Using painkillers or other pain relief methods during that time will help to ease the discomfort.

Otitis externa is less likely to clear up by itself and usually requires medicated ear drops to speed up the healing process. Having clear ears, free of wax build-up, will also help the ear drops to work more effectively.

For other conditions, such as eczema, you can use ointments like petroleum jelly to lubricate the ear, or see your GP for more topical medication, for example, steroid preparations. Learning how to clean elderly ears properly will also help keep ears clean and free of irritants. 
If excess ear wax in elderly people is the reason for ear pain, then removing the ear wax regularly will stop any painful feelings of pressure or fullness. Discover the benefits of Ear microsuction and how it can be done as often as necessary, and can even be performed when an ear infection is present to help ear drops work on clearing the infection faster.

Preventing Ear Pain in Elderly People With Ear Care Clinic

Ear infections can strike at any time and there are no foolproof methods to stop them returning. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of developing an ear infection:

  • Ear plugs – if you’re a keen swimmer, then using ear plugs when in the pool, and then drying your ears thoroughly when you get out, will help stop otitis externa developing.
  • Avoid cotton buds – cotton buds push dirt and debris back into the ear canal and can also cause small cuts and tears where bacteria can start to breed. This can then cause otitis media. 
  • Microsuction – microsuction is a gold standard method for removing ear wax. Older people are more prone to ear wax build-up because our ears dry out as we age. Knowing how to clean elderly ears, and safely removing this extra ear wax, means there is less chance of bacteria finding a place to hide or water getting trapped inside the ear, causing infections.

Microsuction With Ear Care Clinic

Ear Care Clinic is a network of microsuction clinics across London specialising in the removal of ear wax. We can perform microsuction procedures in under an hour and even on the same day you make an enquiry, if an appointment is available.
Contact us to arrange an appointment at any of our five London-based clinics, or enquire about our training course to become a microsuction professional and help people near you.