Your ear's primary uses are for hearing and balance. Your ear is made of three main segments, outer, middle and inner ear. Complications can arise if any of these three parts does not function correctly.
Main complications of the Ear:
Ear infections can be a nusance in your daily life! There are two main types of ear infections that can affect both children & adults.
1. Otitis Media: An ear infection (otitis media) is most often a viral or bacterial infection in the middle ear. A middle ear infection typically occurs when fluid build up in the air-filled space behind the eardrum and do not drain properly after a cold or allergies. Ear infections can affect any age group, but children are more likely than adults to get them.
Ear infections can be painful because of the pressure from fluid buildup and inflammation of the soft tissue in the ear. Other symptoms include diminished hearing and fluid draining from the ear. Ear infections often clear up on their own and treatment may begin with managing the pain and monitoring the infection. If the infection is bacterial, antibiotics may be prescribed.
Symptoms may Include:
- Trouble hearing or responding to soft noises
- Trouble sleeping
- Fluid draining from your ear
- Excessive tugging on your ear
2. Acute Otitis Externa: Often referred to as "Swimmer's Ear", Acute Otitis Externa (AOE) is an infection of the outer ear. The symptoms usually present within days of swimming or submerging in a body of water. It is typically caused by water that remains in the ear after swimming and creates a moist environment that bacteria can grow in. Swimmer’s ear is usually treated with eardrops to dry out the area. If left untreated, this infection may result in hearing loss, chronic infection, deep tissue infection, or bone or cartilage damage.
Symptoms may Include:
- Itchiness in the ear
- Pain when tugging on your ear
- Redness or swelling of your ear
Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that causes episodes of vertigo. Vertigo is the feeling of spinning or losing balance. This disorder may also cause hearing loss, pressure in the ear, or tinnitus (a ringing, roaring or buzzing sound in the ear). These episodes typically last from 20 minutes to four hours.
To diagnose Meniere’s disease, hearing and balance tests will be administered. The tests we offer for diagnosis of Ménière’s disease include, Audiogram, Videonystagmography, Computerized Dynamic Posturography. Click on each of the testing(s) to learn more.
While there is no cure for this condition, there are different options that can help to reduce the severity and occurrences of vertigo episodes. There are anti-nausea and motion sickness medications that can lessen the severity of vertigo episodes. Diuretics may also help some people. Noninvasive therapies and procedures include vestibular rehabilitation or hearing aids.
Ear wax is produced by the glands in the ear canal. It helps to trap dust and other small particles to prevent them from reaching the eardrum. If these small particles reach the eardrum, they can cause damage or an ear infection.
Ear wax typically dries up and falls out of the ear with the trapped particles, but it can build up if it gets pushed deep into the ear canal. Using cotton swabs, hearing aids or earplugs can cause earwax to become impacted.
When ear wax builds up, it can cause decreased hearing, dizziness, ear pain, a plugged or full sensation, ringing, itching or drainage. A doctor such as an ENT specialist can manually remove the earwax, but you should seek medical care immediately if you experience a spinning sensation, balance problems, inability to walk, vomiting, high fever or sudden loss of hearing.
Acoustic Neuromas are rare, noncancerous and slow-growing tumors that develop on the nerve pathway from the inner ear to the brain. These tumors may result in hearing loss, ringing in the affected ear, loss of balance, dizziness or facial numbness. Early diagnosis and treatment may prevent serious consequences such as complete hearing loss or buildup of fluid within the skull, which can be life-threatening.
Ear Drum Perforation:
A perforated eardrum is a hole or rupture in the eardrum. This condition is also known as a tympanic membrane rupture. An eardrum can rupture as a result of infection, injury or eustachian tube disorders. This tear in the membrane separates the outer ear from the middle ear and can lead to a middle ear infection. In most cases, it will heal on its own, but it may cause hearing loss.
The eardrum protects the middle ear from bacteria, moisture and other foreign debris as well as nerve impulses sent to the brain. A ruptured eardrum will disrupt both of these functions by potentially causing hearing loss and allowing bacteria in, which may cause an ear infection.
While some people may experience no symptoms with a ruptured eardrum, others may experience sharp pain. Other symptoms may include a buzzing or ringing, partial hearing loss, ear infection, dizziness, facial weakness or drainage of bloody, clear or pus-like fluid.
Through an exam, a doctor can diagnose a hole or tear in the eardrum. No treatment may be needed other than antibiotics to prevent or treat infection because the majority of perforated eardrums heal on their own in a few months. Nonprescription pain medication and a warm compress can help with discomfort; however, large perforations may require surgery. While the rupture is healing the ear needs to be kept dry and free of water as much as possible.