Ear diseases can especially be worrying because they could lead to pain and discomfort or even serious hearing impairment. Recognizing the symptoms of ear diseases early is critical for proper and immediate treatment and for preventing any complications that may come as a result of a disease or condition. Here are the 11 most common types of ear diseases, their symptoms and treatments:
A boil or furuncle that grows in the ear canal is often caused by a bacterial infection. This infection usually starts due to a break or damage in the skin.
A boil is a small bump that is painful and itchy. It may burst, causing a discharge.
A boil usually resolves on its own. If it does not, antibiotics may be prescribed along with painkillers. Your ENT doctor may also drain the abscess to relieve the pain.
2. Swimmer’s Ear
Swimmer’s Ear or otitis externa is a condition characterized by inflammation of the ear canal. This is usually caused by the accumulation of moisture in the ear canal which later leads to irritation. It can also stem from sand, dirt or debris entering the ear canal. Having swimmer’s ear previously puts you at a higher risk of developing it again. If it worsens, it could lead to an infection.
Redness in the ear canal accompanied by itching and a clear, non-smelly discharge. As the condition worsens, so does the intensity and severity of the symptoms. Inflamed lymph nodes may be present, as well as fever.
Medications may be prescribed to address infection and inflammation, and restore the normal environment of the ear.
3. Meniere’s Disease
Meniere’s Disease is a disease that affects the inner ear, specifically the endolymphatic sac, also called the labyrinth. This semi-circular canal processes sound signals to the brain and is also responsible for the perception of balance.
Vertigo or dizziness, tinnitus (ringing, whistling, hissing, buzzing or roaring sound in the ear), dizziness, sweating and palpitations. Some degree of hearing loss may also be experienced.
Some symptoms of ear diseases may only be treated but the root cause may have no cure. This is the case with Meniere’s Disease. To help alleviate the discomfort of the disease, drugs that combat motion sickness and nausea may be prescribed, along with diuretics. Dietary changes and stress management techniques may also be recommended.
Otomycosis is the infection of the external ear canal caused by a fungus.
Inflammation, flaky, scaly skin and discomfort in the ear canal. Discharge may also be present.
Topical antifungals and oral antihistamines may be prescribed to kill the fungi and relieve the symptoms.
Tinnitus is generally characterized by a ringing in the ears, although the sound may also be a hissing, buzzing, roaring or clicking.
Unexplained sound in one or both ears which may be loud or soft. The sound may be high pitched for some people and low pitched for others.
Tinnitus usually resolves on its own. However, stubborn cases will have to be diagnosed by an ENT to determine the cause so a treatment may be prescribed. Common treatments include sound therapy, TRT (tinnitus retraining therapy) and stress management.
6. Ear Infection
An ear infection is caused by bacteria that enters the ear through a tear in the skin or tissue.
Chronic, smelly discharge that may be yellowish, greenish or bloody; pain, redness and inflammation.
Ear infections are often treated with antibacterial medications that may either be applied topically or taken orally. Treatment can be as short as a week for mild cases or longer for more severe cases.
Barotrauma is the injury caused by a change in water or air pressure. This is usually experienced due to a sudden change in altitude, such as what happens when on an airplane, scuba diving, or driving up a mountain.
Barotrauma may start as a popping sound in the ears, followed by pain, dizziness and some hearing loss.
Yawning, chewing or swallowing will help relieve the pressure. In some cases, decongestants may be prescribed.
8. Vestibular Neuritis
Vestibular neuritis is the inflammation of the inner ear caused by a viral infection.
Vertigo, mild dizziness in some cases, usually accompanied by vomiting. Mild loss of hearing, ear pain, and other symptoms similar to flu symptoms. Nystagmus, a condition characterized by involuntary movement of the eyes may also be present.
The infection is treated with medication until the symptoms disappear.
Presbycusis is a condition characterized by hearing loss as a result of aging. This usually occurs among individuals aged 65 and older.
Gradual loss of hearing, usually starting with high-pitched sounds, such as chirping birds, ringing phones, women’s and children’s voices, etc.; tinnitus, and difficulty hearing other people talk.
When there is loss of hearing already, the doctor may recommend the wearing of hearing aids. If the hearing loss is mild and caused by loud noises, the doctor may recommend minimizing exposure to loud sounds and wearing protective equipment.
Cholesteatoma is characterized by abnormal growth of skin in the middle ear. It is usually caused by chronic infection.
Growth of small pouches and cysts in the inner ear, leading to hearing loss. In severe cases, paralysis of facial muscles and dizziness may occur, but only rarely.
Any infection present is treated with antibiotics. A large or infected cholesteatoma may be removed surgically.
If you suspect that you have an ear infection, please contact our office and schedule an appointment.
11. Otitis Media
Otitis media is among the most common types of ear diseases. It affects the middle ear, causing fluid buildup behind the eardrum. This can lead to swelling and an earache.
Swelling, pain behind the ear and difficulty hearing.
Antibiotics typically treat otitis media. If you experience recurring infections, your physician may insert a tube into your eardrum to help drain built-up fluid.
Risk Factors for Ear Diseases
While these types of ear diseases can affect anyone, several factors might put you at a higher risk.
- Family history: If your relatives have a history of frequent ear infections and disease, you may be prone to experience similar symptoms.
- Allergies: Frequent colds and stuffy noses can lead to fluid buildup, increasing your odds of developing ear inflammation and infection.
- Preexisting medical conditions: Individuals with underlying medical conditions — such as compromised immune systems or craniofacial abnormalities — may experience a higher rate of ear infection and disease.
- Smoking: Exposure to cigarette smoke can cause fluid buildup in the middle ear, potentially affecting hearing loss and leading to recurring ear infections.
If one or more of these risk factors applies to you, an ear disease is not inevitable. However, you’ll want to pay closer attention to any ear disease signs and symptoms and seek care quickly.
Ear Disease Prevention
Some of the most common ear diseases in adults — such as age-related hearing loss — are not usually preventable. There are other routine diseases, however, that you can take steps to avoid. One of the best ways to protect yourself from many common ear diseases is to stay updated with your recommended vaccinations.
Other care habits to follow include:
- Washing your hands regularly, especially during cold and flu season.
- Eating and sleeping well.
- Avoiding smoking or being around secondhand smoke.
- Limiting your time spent in the water.
- Draining your ear canals thoroughly after swimming by turning your head from side to side.
- Refraining from inserting cotton swabs in your ear.
- Regularly disinfecting your pool or hot tub.
If you’re experiencing regular earaches, gradual hearing loss or any discomfort and blockage, schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately. Quick intervention is one of the best ways to stop a simple infection from spiraling into a more serious ear disease.
The Risks of Ignoring Symptoms of Ear Disease
Once you’ve noticed any of these ear disease symptoms, it’s important to act quickly. Some earaches may go away on their own — but others can grow into longer lasting problems if not treated properly.
Ear disease is often uncomfortable. Depending on the specific condition, you may feel a strong pressure or dull ache in your ear that radiates throughout your head. You could also experience dizziness, ringing noises or nausea.
However, discomfort and pain aren’t the worst-case scenarios. Ear diseases left undiagnosed and untreated can lead to more serious health issues over time.
Untreated ear infections can cause conditions such as mastoiditis — an inflammation of the bone near your ear.
Many adults experience a natural fade in their sense of hearing as they grow older. However, ear infections can exacerbate this issue and cause permanent hearing loss. While a doctor can catch and treat hearing loss early in some cases, other conditions may require a long-term solution such as hearing aids.
Diseases such as swimmer’s ear can lead to rare yet serious infections, including malignant external otitis. Left untreated, bacteria inside the ear canal bones can spread to the base of the skull, causing sudden facial nerve paralysis and throat pain.
In rare and serious cases, untreated ear infections can lead to significant medical conditions such as bacterial meningitis.
Chronic ear disease can also cause unpleasant symptoms, including ear pressure, low fevers, ear drainage and imbalance. Treating these symptoms early will improve your overall health and quality of life, and help you eradicate the infection before it spreads.
Common Treatment Methods for Ear Disease
If this list of ear diseases and symptoms seems daunting, don’t worry — there are plenty of effective medical solutions available. Now that you’re well-armed with insight into what signs to look for, it’s time to discover the best treatment options.
Diagnosing Common Ear Diseases
A doctor can often detect ear diseases by examining your ears, throat and nasal passages using an otoscope. At Houston Sinus & Allergy, we examine your ears and surrounding tissue to look for dull or red areas and fluid behind the eardrum. Once we’ve assessed your symptoms and conducted any additional tests, we can diagnose your ear disease and suggest an effective treatment.
Understanding the Symptoms and Treatments of Ear Diseases
Our team of experts at Houston Sinus & Allergy provides several popular treatment methods for common ear diseases. Beyond prescribing antibiotics, we may recommend methods such as:
- Ear tubes. Often used to treat chronic ear infections, tubes placed in the eardrum help streamline the flow of air to the middle ear. This treatment can help to equalize pressure, reduce fluid buildup and improve hearing. Depending on the specifics of your condition, ear tubes can be placed temporarily or on a long-term basis.
- Ear cleaning. A buildup of ear wax, debris and water can cause uncomfortable ear diseases and infections. A thorough professional ear cleaning treatment will clear out unwanted particles, helping to resolve symptoms such as ringing noises, hearing difficulty and ear pressure.
- Otowick placement. Our specialists regularly treat swollen ear canals by administering antibiotic drops through a sponge. This deep ear treatment can help heal infections and reduce swelling quickly.
Schedule Your Consultation With Houston Sinus & Allergy Today
Have you spotted the telltale signs of ear disease? It’s important to book an appointment to receive the antibiotics and care you need. Houston Sinus & Allergy is your local one-stop shop for diagnosis and treatment. We can help get to the root of your ear disease and offer effective treatment quickly and affordably.