Why Do Adults Get Fluid In Their Ears?


Fluid in the ear is a frequent problem in children and to a lesser degree it is a problem for adults too. Fluid in the ears can be a problem for people in any age group.

Fluid in the ears can range from a very mild discomfort to a very severe painful problem.

Symptoms of fluid in the middle ear of adults may include the uncomfortable sensation that your ears need to “pop”. You may have an annoying ringing in the ears (tinnitus). You may have difficulty hearing. You may notice sounds appear muffled. Your ears may feel “full”. You may have some trouble with your balance and feel unsteady when standing or walking. You may experience pain in the ear especially when changing altitudes. You may develop a headache or you may be vomiting or feeling sick to your stomach. If the eardrum has burst you may have fluid leaking from the ear.

Fluid in the ears may be caused by allergies. It may be caused by congestion from a sinus infection or cold. If your sinus tissue, tonsils or adenoids become enlarged this may cause a problem. You may have fluid in the ears if your auditory (Eustachian) tubes are not functioning properly and cannot drain. Any damage to these auditory tubes will contribute to a fluid in the ear problem. Exposure to cigarette smoke and chemical irritants causes fluid in the ears.


Fluid in the ears is not always easy to diagnose and may require consultation with a medical expert known as an otolaryngologist. This is a doctor specializing in treatment of the ear, nose and throat.

Fluid in the ears is usually treated in either of two ways.

If your symptoms are not severe the doctor may want to wait to see if the problem will clear by itself. You may need antibiotic medicine to treat the infection in the ear. You may want to use some over the counter medication like aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help ease the pain. Sometimes ear drops are recommended.

For a severe case of fluid in the ears the doctor may insert temporary tubes into the ears to hold the auditory tubes open and allow the fluid to drain out.

You may be able to prevent some fluid in the ears by using a decongestant to control congestion and by avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke or other chemical irritants.