The human ear consists of three parts: the inner, middle, and outer ear.
The outer ear is what we see. The pinna, or the outer ear, is the cartilage-cupped portion of your ear that captures sound waves and directs them down an ear canal to the middle ear.
In the middle ear, the sound waves hit the eardrum, a membrane much like a snare drum skin. The eardrum begins to vibrate. Right behind the vibrating eardrum are three tiny connected bones of different shapes – malleus (hammer), incus (anvil), and stapes (stirrup). The vibrating eardrum causes those bones to vibrate in turn.
You have external pressure on the middle ear which is equalized by a eustachian tube from your throat to the middle ear. It also drains fluid that might build up in the middle ear.
The inner ear is where the sound wave-induced vibrations are translated into information-laden signals transported through the auditory nerve to the brain. The tiny vibrating bones strike the cochlea which is a spiral-shaped membrane enclosing thousands of tiny hairs and fluid. It is here that the translation occurs as a conversion of physical vibrations into electrical impulses.
Your brain interprets those electrical impulses as different sounds – voices, music, whistles, etc.
Such a complex system is vulnerable to disease and injury that interferes with the normal function of hearing.
Tinnitus is known as the mother of all ear meladies. It is a persistant annoyance without a known cure. It has been described as experiencing ringing, hissing, buzzing, or other sounds when there is no external sound.
It is a common ear problem experienced by 15% to 20% of the population, especially older people. While the condition itself has no known cure it is usually caused by some underlying factor such as injury or old age. If the underlying cause can be identified the condition is sometimes relieved by treating the underlying cause.
Most people who suffer from tinnitus say they learn to “tune” it out. Usually, it is not painful but just very annoying.
Recurring Ear Infections
Some people, particularly children, suffer from recurring chronic infections of the middle ear. If untreated, they can be painful and lead to permanent hearing loss or ruptured eardrum.
Infection is the result of a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum. If the fluid is not properly drained by the eustachian tube it becomes infected by bacteria. For most adults, the infection is effectively treated with antibiotics. But surgery might be needed to correct a faulty eustachian tube.
Recurring infection is a common ailment of infants and toddlers whose eustachian tube is underdeveloped. As a result, uneven pressure builds up without relief from a normal eustachian tube. The pressure builds up fluid which becomes infected. The cure is achieved by inserting a tube to relieve the pressure until a healthy eustachian tube is matured.
Earwax is a natural protective substance that lubricates and cleans your ear canal by trapping dirt. Ordinarily, it dissolves. However, it sometimes builds up and causes pressure and pain while impeding your hearing.
Over-the-counter solutions are available to break down and dissolve the blockage. However, if that doesn’t work you should see your doctor who will perform a simple procedure to dislodge the blockage.
Ear Drum Perforation
If your eardrum is perforated the first instrument of your hearing system will be disabled and unable to vibrate. No signals will be translated and sent to your brain. It can also make your middle ear more vulnerable to infection.
It can be caused by an infection or other pressure imbalance, loud noises, or the insertion of small objects like cotton swabs.
In most cases, your eardrum will heal by itself in a few weeks.
Swimmer’s ear is a build-up of fluid that becomes infected in the outer ear canal that runs from your outer ear to your eardrum. The fluid or continuous moisture gathers bacteria that blossoms into an infection.
It is treated with antibiotics and topical ear drops.
Ear problems in Davie can lead to serious problems including permanent hearing loss if left unattended. They should be addressed at the earliest.
We at the Southeastern Ear Nose Throat and Sinus Center are Davie ear nose throat specialists. As soon as you experience pain, hearing loss, or other ear problems contact us in Pembroke Pines, Florida.