Preventing Ear Infections in Seniors

Seniors can prevent ear infections in some cases. Preventing ear infections in seniors is not always possible, due to factors of aging. Mostly, however, by following a healthy senior lifestyle, and basic proper hygiene, the ears can stay healthy.


 Some Tips for Preventative Ear Care

There are medical and home-remedy type ways to prevent infection. Here are a selection of the more conventional ways to keep ears clean and healthy:


Quit smoking, stay away from smoking.

The ears, nose and throat are connected. If due to smoking a person gets a respiratory illness, it could spread to the ears, causing an infection.



Ear infections can be caused by inflammation alone without an infection. By smoking, a person can suffer from inflammation in the ENT tract (the area inside the ear, nose and throat). Smoking also damages the delicate lining of the ENT tract.


Go Carefully after Swimming

Clean and pat dry the external part of the ear after bathing or swimming. Long, wet hair should be dried or tied back to avoid water dripping into the ear.


Plug It Up

Use ear-plugs for bathing or swimming. Stop up the ear, to stop water going inside the ear canal. Untreated water or, clean water that gets trapped behind the eardrum can cause infections.


Cleaning the Ears Safely

This is a big issue for many people. Seniors and people of all ages should not use cotton swabs to clean the ears. Cotton buds (ear buds, q-tips) should not be used to clean the ears. The Mayo Clinic  allows application of some oils to soften earwax. However, for seniors it is probably wiser to do it via a visit to the doctor. Inserting items into the ear canal – from q-tips, to hairpins, to paperclips(!) – can damage the delicate skin inside the ear canal or cause an infection.


Leave the Ears Well Alone

Avoid putting fingers into or near the ears. Wash the hands frequently to avoid spread of germs and bacteria. This is especially important before any ear-care.


Eat the Right Foods

Avoid foods that cause inflammation or a build-up of phlegm since that could lead to infections in the respiratory tract, the nose or the ears. This might include: allergy triggers, for some people foods such as dairy foods, bread, red meat or eggs.


Deal with Colds Early On

If a person is suffering from a cold, they should consider using a decongestant to get rid of the mucus.


Preventing ear infections in seniors is sort of, a work of art.

If a senior is

  • being cared for by a carer
  • is in a rehab center or
  • a nursing home

then, the senior themselves, if possible, or the family must stand up for their ‘ear rights’!

Keep a beady eye on the hygiene habits of whoever is washing or applying drops to the senior person’s ear. Don’t be ashamed to ask staff or the assistant politely whether the instrument being used is sterile and clean. Insist on people washing their hands sufficiently.


Since a large part of preventing ear infections in seniors is in our hands, let’s all be vigilant.

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