A cholesteatoma is a mass of skin cells in the middle ear. As the mass gradually increases in size, it can destroy the middle ear bones, causing hearing loss and infection. Learn more about Cholesteatomas.
Ear Infection and Otitis Externa
Middle ear infection (otitis media) often occurs after a cold or with an infection of the upper airway. The Eustachian tube aerates the middle ear to prevent fluid from collecting. The Eustachian tube is a channel from the back of the throat to the ear allowing air to fill the middle ear space. When fluid occurs, it is initially sterile, but with time, it can become infected.
Symptoms of otitis media include: ear pain, fever, decrease in hearing, and possibly drainage from the ear. Treatment may include a course of antibiotics. Long-term fluid may necessitate the need to insert tympanostomy tubes, a small tube placed through the eardrum, that serves a similar function as the Eustachian tube. This is a procedure performed by an ear physician based on the results of a hearing test battery and the medical history.
Otitis Externa (swimmer’s ear) is an infection of the external ear canal. If there is too much wax in the ear canal, water, moisture, and debris may become trapped, increasing the risk for infection. Water from a pond, lake, ocean, and even a hot tub that houses increased bacteria can result in otitis externa. Believe it or not, Q-tips can cause external otitis due to trauma to the skin of the canal! Learn more about Ear Infections.
Perforation (Hole) in the Tympanic Membrane (Ear Drum)
A perforation is a tear or other opening in the tympanic membrane. Sometimes, this occurs secondary to the presence of fluid behind the ear drum. Ear trauma, such as a blow to the head, or objects puncturing the ear drum (use of a Q-tip), can also cause a perforation and possible hearing loss.
Many perforations heal spontaneously, especially if it is small and located towards the center of the ear drum. Some perforations may require surgical repair, called a tympanoplasty. Learn more about Perforations of the Ear Drum.
Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD) occurs when the Eustachian tube, a narrow passageway connecting the middle ear with the nose is blocked or malfunctions and fails to allow pressure to equalize on both sides of the ear drum.
Most everyone has experienced ETD when they have a cold, allergies or gone up in an airplane. It is the “plugged” sensation you feel. The middle ear is a pressure-filled space that, under normal circumstances, has the same pressure as the environment around you. When the air pressure changes quickly, a normal functioning Eustachian tube will “pop” and re-equalize the pressure around the ear drum. If one has ETD, the Eustachian tube will remain closed in the circumstance and there will be a consistent plugged feeling. Learn more about Eustachian Tube Dysfunction.
Otosclerosis is a condition of abnormal bone remodeling in the middle ear. Bone remodeling is a lifelong process in which bone tissue renews itself by replacing old tissue with new. In otosclerosis, abnormal remodeling disrupts the ability of sound to travel from the middle ear to the inner ear.
The ear is a complex system relying on a series of mechanisms to convert incoming sound waves into nerve impulses. Part of this mechanism relies on a tiny bone in the middle ear, called the stapes. In a normal system, the stapes bone is free to move and transmit information along the ossicular chain (comprised of 3 bones in the middle ear). With otosclerosis, it can grow so large or harden so that it no longer moves and eventually causes hearing loss.
Other symptoms of otosclerosis include dizziness or tinnitus. Many cases of otosclerosis are thought to be inherited and white, middle-aged women are most at risk.
Treatment for otosclerosis can include the use of hearing aids or surgery, called a stapedectomy, performed by an ENT or otologist.
Semi-circular Canal Dehiscence
Superior Semi-Circular Canal Dehiscence Syndrome (SSCD) is a rare medical condition described as a thinning or complete absence of a portion of the temporal bone overlying the superior semicircular canal of the inner ear, which causes a hypersensitivity to sound and balance disorders.
Symptoms include: vertigo that arises from exposure to loud sounds; dizziness that increases with activity and settles when at rest; hearing loss, tinnitus and fullness can also occur.
Treatment can occlude surgery to repair the semi-circular canal. Learn more about Semi-circular Canal Dehiscence.