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Common ear problems

Ear conditions may be caused by problems in the ear, neck, sinuses or head. The ear has three main parts: outer, middle and inner. Many issues are related to the ears. Some of them may affect hearing and others cause disorders with infection and even balance. Some of them can even be treated with new hearing aids.

Ear disorders

Depending on the affected area, ear conditions are different and knowing what could affect your ears is essential. A hearing specialist can help you find the cause for your problem.

Outer Ear

The outer ear is made up of three parts; the pinna which is the part we see on the sides of our heads, the ear canal, and the eardrum (tympanic membrane). The pinna collects sound waves and channels them into the ear canal (external auditory meatus), where the sound is amplified.

Some of the outer ear conditions are ear wax, infections and malformations. The most common infection is called swimmer’s ear, also called otitis externa. It is an infection that people develop between the eardrum and the outer ear. It is usually caused by pseudomonas bacteria.

The name arose from the fact that swimmers would often develop infections while doing lengths in untreated pools. Dirty water would enter the ear canal and provide opportunistic bacteria with a chance to multiply.

Earwax is produced in the outer part of the ear canal and excessive earwax may cause blockage. These symptoms might include hearing loss and ear irritation.

Middle Ear

Behind the eardrum is the middle ear. The sound waves are amplified before they are delivered to the inner ear. The vibrations of the eardrum cause the tiny bones in the middle ear to vibrate. Some of the common middle ear conditions are hearing loss, acute otitis media and infections.There are two types of hearing loss in the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss happens when sound waves may be disrupted before they reach the inner ear. Sensorineural problems occur when waves may not be processed correctly in the inner ear. Acute otitis media usually is caused by bacteria or a virus. The infection spreads through the back of the throat to the middle ear.

Inner Ear

The inner ear is made up of the cochlea, the semicircular canals that help with balance, and the nerves that go to the brain.The cochlea is divided into two chambers by a membrane. The chambers are full of fluid which vibrates when sound comes in and causes the small hairs which line the membrane to vibrate and send electrical impulses to the brain.

Some of the common disorders in the inner ear are tinnitus and vertigo. Tinnitus is when you experience ringing or other noises in one or both of your ears. These buzzes may be transient or maybe heard continuously.

BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo) is one of the most common causes of vertigo. The feeling is the sudden sensation that you're spinning or that the inside of your head is spinning. It is usually triggered by specific changes in your head's position.

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