Ears are delicate, complex organs that provide us with one of the most amazing senses – hearing. Your ears carry waves in the air around you to your brain where they are interpreted as distinct sounds. Your sense of hearing is incredibly versatile and allows you to detect even the quietest sounds, isolate a specific sound within background noise, and determine whether a noise came from near or far away.
Our ears also help us with balance especially when we are moving, self-clean by creating ear wax, while also being home to the smallest bones in the body. But our ears can only carry out these intricate processes if every part is in top working order.
Hearing loss affects 48 million Americans and can be a result of ear diseases which not only interfere with your hearing and balance, but can also be extremely uncomfortable. Many different parts of your ear can be affected by trauma or diseases such as the ear canal, middle ear, and the inner ear. All parts of your ear are susceptible to infection and trauma which can result in damage to the ears varying from minor to severe.
While not all types of diseases of the ear cause hearing loss, certain types of ear diseases and infections can lead to sensorineural or conductive hearing loss, particularly if the issue is left untreated. Here are four common ear diseases and symptoms you should be aware of:
Inner and outer ear infections are the most common form of ear pain.
Tinnitus is a relatively common ear condition, with more than 50 million Americans experiencing some form of tinnitus during their lifetime. Tinnitus refers to when you hear sounds in your ears when there is no external source. It can occur as a ringing, roaring, buzzing, or whistling sound which can be low, medium, or high-pitched. It’s often linked to age-related hearing loss or following exposure to loud noise. It can be temporary, but for some people, it occurs frequently or they have it all the time.
Around 615,000 adults in the US are affected by Ménière’s disease, which is a long-term, progressive inner ear disease that affects balance and the hearing parts of your inner ear. Ménière’s disease can cause you to feel dizzy and unsteady, experience a spinning sensation, feel sick, hear ringing or buzzing sounds. You may experience a sudden drop in your hearing on one side, known as unilateral hearing loss. These symptoms can happen at the same time and last for minutes, hours, or in severe cases, you can experience permanent hearing loss.
Sudden changes in air pressure, foreign objects in the ear, or infection can tear the delicate eardrum, causing discomfort, and possibly one or more hearing conditions. Long or repeated exposure to very loud noises can also cause a ruptured eardrum and lead to noise-induced hearing loss which affects up to 40 million adults. Symptoms can include:
If you are concerned about your hearing or you are experiencing pain or discomfort in your ears, you should schedule a consultation with your hearing care professional or doctor as soon as possible.