Examining The Ear: Part 2
This is Part 2 of the Examining The Ear series, for Part 1 click here. This second article will delve into some of the pathologies within the ear that can cause hearing loss.
Pathologies Of The Ear: Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a problem transferring sound waves anywhere along the pathway through the outer ear, tympanic membrane (eardrum), or middle ear (ossicles).
A blockage in the ear canal from excessive earwax (cerumen) is one of the most common causes of conductive hearing loss.
This can be treated simply by going to your audiologist to remove the built up wax; for information about our wax removal services click here.
It is extremely important that you do not attempt to remove the wax yourself with items such as cotton buds, as these only push the wax deeper and make your condition worse. It is always best to seek professional help if you suspect a wax blockage.
A perforated eardrum can be caused by many different things, including barotrauma and ear infections.
Barotrauma is when there is damage to the eardrum caused by a sudden change in pressure; this can happen when deep-sea diving, sudden descent (flying), being hit around the head etc.
Middle ear Infections can cause perforations due to the build up of fluid behind the eardrum, which can cause the eardrum to rupture. The role of the eardrum is to vibrate when sound reaches it, and transfer these vibrations down through the middle and inner ear.
If there is damage to the eardrum, it cannot vibrate properly and sound is not properly transferred.
This is an infection of the middle ear, but does not typically manifest with signs of pain or inflammation. Instead, it conssits fo a sticky fluid that sits behind the eardrum.
This condition is more commonly known as ‘glue ear’ and can be allowed to heal on its own, or can be treated with grommets which allow air through the
Pathologies Of The Ear: Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural loss happens when the sensory hair cells inside the cochlea gradually become damaged or die, or there has been subsequent damage to the neural pathways of hearing.
Hearing loss can be caused by certain types of medication; any medication that can cause damage to the ear is referred to as ototoxic. Despite their well known risk of hearing disorders, many well known ototoxic drugs are prescribed for very serious health conditions. Some ototoxic drugs include antibiotics such as gentamicin, streptomycin, tobramycin, and platnim-based chemotherapy agents such as cisplatin, carboplatin, and vincristine.
This disease is a disorder of the inner ear, which causes vertigo, tinnitus, and can also cause hearing to fluctuate. The cause of Meniere’s disease is currently unknown, but it is believed to be caused by a change in the amount of endolymph (fluid found in cochlea) and a change in pressure in the labyrinth. This can be caused by allergies, viral infections, and migraines. Treatment for this consists of medication, balance exercises, and nutrition advice.
There are a number of viruses which can affect hearing as a result of damage to the sensorineural pathway. For example, measles, mumps, meningitis, shingles etc. Through medication, this damage can often be reversed if seen to early on.
If you are concerned about your hearing, the best option is to have your hearing tested. For more information about the hearing tests we offer, click here!
Sudden Hearing Loss
If you experience a sudden hearing loss, it is advised that you seek immediate medical advice. The first 72 hours are critical, and the sooner it is managed, the more chance you have of regaining your hearing!