Ear blockages can be within the outer, middle or inner ears. Impacted wax or swelling due to infection (otitis externa) is usually the cause. Infection is the most common cause for middle ear blockages (otitis media) creating a build-up of fluid which then causes a blockage and subsequent hearing loss. Upper respiratory tract infections or changes in pressure, for instance when diving or travelling by air, can cause sudden pressure in the inner ear which sometimes leads to temporary hearing loss. Meniere’s disease or acoustic neuroma can be responsible for similar symptoms.
Ear Discharge (Otorrhoea)
Discharge from the ear which is usually due to infection of the ear canal (otitis externa) or middle ear (acute or chronic otitis media).
Ear injuries are mainly caused by blows to the ear or head, or sudden, extreme pressure changes. A sudden change to the pressure in the ear canal may lead to the ear drum rupturing and disrupting the ossicles. The landing in an aeroplane can cause severe pain and damage to the ear drum. Even blowing your nose could lead to the rupture of delicate membranes.
Itchy ears is usually due to infection or irritation of the skin lining the external ear canal (otitis externa).
Ear Pain (Otalgia)
Infection, either of the outer or middle ear, is the most common cause of pain in the ears. However, what may present as ear pain may be referred pain from problems in the jaw which shares the same nerves.
Ear Noise (Tinnitus)
Tinnitus is a constant noise usually only heard by the patient, although in some rare cases the sound can be heard by other people as well. The constant nature of the sound can be distressing to patients although the level, of distress, can vary from patient to patient.
Ear Sensitivity (Hyperacusis)
Increased sound sensitivity is a frequent early symptom of inner ear disease and patients experience a sensitivity which makes normal sounds appear to be abnormally loud.
There are two general types of hearing loss:
Conductive hearing loss is usually due to impacted wax or infection, both of which can be easily treated with medical or surgical treatment.
Sensorineural hearing loss results from damage usually related to aging or can be noise induced. In rare cases, this may be due to an underlying benign tumour (acoustic neuroma). Sensorineural hearing loss is generally permanent, though treatment can sometimes prevent further deterioration of certain conditions.