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Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013

Middle Ear Hearing Loss

Female doctor stands ready to help patient with eustachian tube problems.

If you've ever had the experience of having your ears pop, you know part of what the eustachian tube of the middle ear does--regulates pressure within the ears. The eustachian tube connects the middle ear, throat, and nose. When the eustachian tube is blocked, it can't regulate air properly so there is pain, popping, and an increased risk of infection and hearing loss.

The most common middle ear problem is a build up a fluid that can result in inflammation and an ear infection also called otitis media. Ear pain, diminished hearing, sore throat, headache, clicking can all be signs of a middle ear infection. Ear infections can range in severity and can cause mild to extreme pain. Swallowing and yawning are two ways to contract muscles in the back of the throat that help control the function of the ear and this sometimes relieves the feeling of fullness that comes when the air pressure within the eustachian tube is not being regulated properly, as with flying. Still, that fullness or the feeling that you can't hear properly isn't always that easily remedied. Sometimes it is more serious.

Fever, drainage, dizziness, and ear pain are all signs that you need to see a doctor about your ear pain, fullness, or discomfort. Otitis media is more common in the winter and fall months, more common in children as they have a smaller eustachian tube, and more common in certain populations like Native Americans. In addition to the pain of middle ear infections there can also be mild to sever hearing loss that can be temporary, if treated, but may become permanent if left untreated. Common treatment for ear infections include the use of antibiotics, and some people also find additional help with the dizziness symptom from staying away from caffeine, sugar, and salt. For severe or recurring ear infections surgery may be an option. Although otitis media is the most common middle ear problem, there are other conditions that may cause similar symptoms.

Other Middle Ear Problems

Acoustic Neuroma
A benign tumor of the nerve that connects the ear to the brain. Feeling of fullness of the clogged ear sensation could be a sign of this condition, so don't delay in seeking professional help.

Meniere's Disease
Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that can leave people afflicted with the disease battling vertigo so severe it can even leave them wheelchair bound. Meniere’s disease is a mysterious condition that has varying degrees of serious and physically draining symptoms.

Tinnitus
Tinnitus is a noise, like the clicking sound associated with otitis media, that seems to originate in the ear or head that is usually an indication of some damage to your auditory system. It can be constant or periodic, and seem to come from specific sides of your head (as in left, right, center, etc.).

Otosclerosis
Otosclerosis is a condition in which the formation of bone, usually within the middle ear, causes hearing loss. It's not fully understood why this bone growth happens, but factors like pregnancy, virus, and genetics are thought to contribute to its likelihood. Surgeries for otosclerosis varies and can depend on the severity of the condition and other underlying problems.

It is important to having hearing problems associated with an earache evaluated in order to rule out more severe causes of the middle ear and especially in children to treat the symptoms before hearing loss becomes permanent or begins to interfere with learning and development. If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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