While your ears look simple from the outside, the auditory system is complex. The six parts of your ears are continuously working together to help you hear a wide variety of sounds, from faint whispers to loud fireworks. Needless to say, we rely on our ears for many things throughout the day and should not take their functionality for granted.
Hearing loss affects one in ten North Americans. From hereditary hearing loss to common ear infections and everything in between, there are many causes of ear disorders, but there are also many solutions. The otolaryngologists at ENT and Allergy Associates are trained in both the medical and surgical treatment of outer and inner ear disorders and understand firsthand the importance of auditory health.
Let’s explore some of the most common ear ailments and symptoms so you can be proactive about your auditory health by visiting an outer and inner ear doctor.
Common Ear Ailments
Ear ailments can range from exterior issues on your outer ear to problems deep in your middle ear and cochlea. They are typically caused by bacteria or a virus, and some mild conditions may clear up over time without intervention. However, if you feel pain in your ear for more than a few days it’s important to visit an ear specialist. They will be able to diagnose the issue and provide treatment or antibiotics to help speed up the recovery process.
These are some of the most common ear ailments:
Swimmers ear (Otitis Externa)
Earlobe infection (often caused by piercing)
Inner ear infection (Otitis Media)
Ear pain allergies (caused by allergic reactions)
While these are certainly not all the ear ailments that can occur, they are the most common and easily treatable.
Ear Infection Symptoms
Wondering if you have an ear infection?
Here are some symptoms to be on the lookout for:
Pain or ear popping: While it may be a normal occurrence while flying, your ears should not be in pain or popping so much that they hurt every day.
Hearing loss: Hearing loss can come in either mechanical (conductive) or nerve (sensorineural) forms, or can stem from a combination of both.
Excessive ear wax build-up: Ear wax helps protect our ears, but too much accumulation can lead to hearing loss and other issues. You may also notice you have more ear wax when you’re stressed or scared, which is completely normal.
Dizziness or vertigo: Dizziness is a term often used by patients to relate a disturbance in their equilibrium, while vertigo is defined as the hallucination of motion. Both can be uncomfortable and a result of an inner ear issue.
Tinnitus: Tinnitus refers to noises or sounds heard in the ears. It may sometimes be described as ringing, buzzing, pulsatile, or hissing. While many people have experienced it for brief moments, when it’s persistent it can be a sign of a bigger problem.
Redness and swelling: An infected ear may appear red, tender, and sensitive to the touch. In extreme cases, it may bleed.
Strategies For Healing
It may be tempting to try to cure waxy ears and infections yourself, but this is not advised. These are some ways you can keep your ears healthy and help them heal from an infection.
Don’t use Q-tips: It’s easy to fall into the habitat of using a Q-tip to clean your ears, but this can actually be doing more harm than good. Q-tips can cause damage to your middle ear and push more wax in than it takes out. Our ears naturally expel wax, so try to refrain from using Q-tips on your or your child’s ears.
Don’t try ear candling: This popular trend of late is ineffective and dangerous. While the videos appear satisfying ear candling should not be used to get rid of wax buildup.
Avoid constant headphone use: Wearing headphones all day can cause an increase in wax buildup. Make sure your ears can “breath” during the day, and when you do wear headphones avoid listening to anything at a loud volume.
Don’t smoke: Studies have shown that a history of smoking can make a person have a greater risk of developing a hearing impairment.
As you can see, the best thing you can do for your ears is leave them alone. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, visit an ear specialist. They have the tools and knowledge to help clean your ears safely and effectively.
Finding an Ear Doctor
An ear, nose, and throat doctor can be the most comprehensive way to receive treatment for common ear ailments in both children and adults. At ENT and Allergy Associates, our physicians are trained in everything ear health and have been educated at institutions such as: