Causes of Fluid in Adult Ears

Fluid in the ear can cause pain, dizziness and make it difficult for individuals to participate in daily activities. Most often children are the ones who are diagnosed with ear infections; however, it can occur in adults. Fluid in the ear often goes away on its own and medications can be prescribed to treat the symptoms.

Swimmer's Ear

Swimmer's ear, also known as otitis externa, is an infection of the ear and/or ear canal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, swimmer's ear is caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, bacteria that is found in the dirt and water. When the contaminated water sits in the ear canal too long, it can cause an infection. Signs and symptoms include pus draining from the ear, pain, redness, swelling and itching. Antibiotic ear drops are often prescribed to treat the infection.

Serious Otitis Media


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Serious otitis media is the inflammation and infection of the middle ear, which is located behind the eardrum. According to the Ear Surgery Information Center, the space behind the eardrum is only filled with air, which allows the transmission of sound waves to pass through. When a person develops a cold or upper respiratory infection, this empty space can be filled with fluid. Once the person recovers from the cold or respiratory infection, the fluid drains through the Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the nose. Decongestants and antibiotics help clear up the infection and allow the fluid to drain.


The labyrinth is the part in the inner ear that helps control a person's balance. Labyrinthitis occurs when the labyrinth becomes inflamed. According to MedlinePlus, labyrinthitis can be caused by fluid from middle ear infections, upper respiratory infections or allergies. Signs and symptoms can include vertigo, loss of balance, nausea and vomiting, hearing loss in one ear, and tinnitus. Labyrinthitis oftentimes goes away on its own; however, corticosteroids and antihistamines may be given to treat the symptoms. People with labyrinthitis should avoid sudden movement, bright lights and reading, because these activities may make symptoms worse, notes MedlinePlus.