Ear problems can be as simple as an earwax blockage or as serious as significant hearing loss. Your primary care physician may refer you to an otolaryngologist also called an ENT. An ENT is a doctor who specializes in the ear, nose, and throat.
An infection or injury can cause a ruptured eardrum, or tear in the membrane between the ear canal and the middle ear.
Too much earwax may accumulate in your ear canal resulting in earwax blockage. If earwax blockage becomes a problem, you or your doctor can take steps to remove the wax safely.
Hearing problems are serious. It's important for your health to have the cause of your hearing loss explored because it can be caused by a serious health issues. If you think you have a problem with your hearing, talk to your primary care provider. Take our hearing loss quiz.
Noise induced hearing lossWhen we are exposed to harmful noise—sounds that are too loud or loud sounds that last a long time—sensitive structures in our inner ear can be damaged, causing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). A good rule of thumb is to avoid noises that are "too loud" and "too close" or that last "too long."Sudden hearing lossSudden hearing loss is called Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss or SSHL. As the name implies the hearing loss comes on suddenly.Doctors believe that getting medical help quickly for SSHL increases the chances for recovery.Age related hearing lossAs we age, many of us will experience gradual hearing loss. About 30-35 % of adults between the ages of 65 and 75 years have a hearing loss. And among people age 75 and over, 40-50% are estimated to have hearing loss. Age related hearing loss is called presbycusis.Because the process of loss is gradual, people who have presbycusis may not realize that their hearing is diminishing. The loss affects both ears equally and is usually greater for high-pitched sounds. For example, it may be difficult for someone to hear the nearby chirping of a bird or the ringing of a telephone. However, the same person may be able to hear clearly the low-pitched sound of a truck rumbling down the street.
Ménière's disease is an abnormality of the inner ear causing veritgo or severe dizziness, tinnitus or a roaring sound in the ears, fluctuating hearing loss, and the sensation of pressure or pain in the affected ear. The disorder usually affects only one ear and is a common cause of hearing loss. The symptoms of Ménière's disease occur suddenly and can arise daily or as infrequently as once a year.
An infection or inflammation of the middle ear is called otitis media. The same viral or bacterial infections that cause sore throats, colds, or other respiratory or breathing problems can spread to the middle ear and cause infection. Otitis media is primarily a disease of infants and young children, but it can also affect adults. Seventy-five percent of children experience at least one episode of ear infection by their third birthday. Learn about ear infections in children by taking this quiz:
Quiz: Ear infections
Quiz: Ear infections
Swimmer's ear is an infection of your outer ear and ear canal.
Ringing in the ears or tinnitus
If you often hear a ringing, roaring, clicking, or hissing sound in your ears, you may have tinnitus. People with severe tinnitus may find it difficult to hear, work, or even sleep. If you have tinnitus, it is important that you go to see your doctor, who may refer you to an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist.