The body has its own protective mechanisms, and one of these is the ear wax. The skin in the ear produces an oily, waxy substance known as cerumen. This is produced to help protect the ear from the dust and the microorganisms that it is constantly subjected to. What happens is this earwax is naturally removed from the ear as it gets washed away through the ear canal that opens to the outside. However, in some cases, where there is excessive production of wax, it can harden and cause a blockage. Read on to know more about how this ear wax builds up, how it may cause blockage, and how to get rid of it.
Buildup: As noted, the ear wax is a natural protective mechanism to keep dust and bacteria from entering the ear canal which is a very critical organ. The middle ear is responsible for maintaining overall body balance. However, in some people, more wax is produced than what gets removed. Also, due to the recurrent use of earphones and earbuds, the wax can get pushed deeper. The earphones also could block the wax from getting out of the ear canal.
Excessive ear wax can lead to the following:
It is important to know that trying to remove ear wax at home should be avoided, as they can push the wax internally and cause more severe problems. These above symptoms could be indicative of various other problems in the ear and so should be immediately attended to by a medical doctor. Those who use hearing aids may also face the problem of excessive wax buildup.
Removal: As mentioned above, removal should not be done at home. This is true especially for young children and the elderly.
As the next step, clinical removal may be required. Those who are prone to excessive wax buildup may go for an annual or biannual wax removal. This could include irrigation and use of suction or curette to remove the wax. Ear wax, though not very pleasant, has a role to play in the ear’s health and small amounts of it is beneficial.
Ear problems can strike any individual of any age, and be very troublesome. It can even impair normal life. However, children are especially vulnerable to these and all diseases because their immune systems have not developed to full strength yet. There are several kinds of ear diseases that may affect children.
Which is the most common type of ear ailment that affects children?
The human ear has three parts: the inside, the middle and the outside. Children are most prone to acquiring diseases of the middle ear that can impede their hearing temporarily or permanently. The liquid is accumulated in this part of the ear in affected children. Along with mild deafness, related trouble like a pain in the ear may also be caused. Antibiotics are the most common treatment in these cases.
Symptoms: What gives away hidden ear disease in children?
Ear diseases are difficult to detect in children, as the middle ear is not visible with the naked eye, and children most often do not complain of pain there. These symptoms are helpful in detecting if there really is a problem-
• Pain in the ears
• The pain inside the head
• Liquid coming out of the ear
• Losing the will to eat
• Difficulty hearing
The most common childhood hearing ailments-
Following are the (hidden) ear diseases that affect the most number of infants and children-
• Acute otitis media - This is a severe infection of the middle ear, causing pain and irritation there. Fluid discharges are also common. The child should be taken to visit an Ear-Nose-Throat specialist. They will treat her/him with antibiotics, as the underlying cause is mostly bacteria.
• Otitis media with effusion - This occurs after an ear infection is generally over, and the child does not feel any discomfort. However, the doctor senses fluid build up and infections still present in the ear. This condition mostly heals on its own.
• Congenital hearing loss - The child may have been born with hearing loss. This happens if congenital hearing loss runs in the family, or if the mother had major diseases like diabetes. Another possibility of hearing loss is that the baby may have been born with disorders of the brain or the nervous system.
• Acquired hearing loss - The child may develop hearing loss in her/his lifetime due to reasons like chicken pox, influenza or serious damage to the head.
Hearing loss or ear diseases are somewhat common across age and generations of people, but they also can hinder your normal functioning. If you suspect your child has one, you should take her/him to a specialist immediately and try to test if she/he has any of the above disorders.
Tympanic Membrane, commonly known as eardrum, divides external parts of the ear (consisting of Pinna or Auricle and External Auditory Cavity) and the middle ear (Tympanic cavity). The function of the Tympanic Membrane is to transmit the sound of air via ossicles of the middle ear to the oval window in the cochlea. It converts and amplifies vibration in air to the vibration in fluid.
An eardrum rupture is a small hole or tear in the thin tissue which divides the external ear canal and middle ear. A person with a ruptured eardrum may feel a clap of thunder or earache. This may also lead to hearing loss. An eardrum rupture is also known as a perforated eardrum or punctured eardrum.
Causes of Rupture Eardrum:
There are many causes of ruptured eardrums, and some of the most common causes are listed below:
Infections are one of the most common causes of ruptured eardrums. During an ear infection, the fluid accumulates in the ear, which builds pressure causing a tear of Tympanic Membrane.
Change in Pressure:
Activities that cause pressure changes in the ear may lead to a rupture in the eardrum. It is called Barotrauma. This mainly happens when the pressure of the external ear is drastically different from the inner ear.
Activities which may cause Barotrauma are:
Flying in an aeroplane
Driving at high altitudes
Forceful and direct impact to the ear
Ear injuries may also perforate the eardrums. Any ear injury or head injury on the side of the ear may break the Tympanic Membrane and lead to ruptured eardrums. Injuries that may harm eardrums are:
Getting hit in the ear
Injuries in which a person falls on his/her ears
Ear injuries during sports
Damage to the ear due to noise or loud sounds can also rupture the eardrum. However, the evidence of this is yet to be found.
Other causes include skull fractures, foreign objects, and severe head trauma.
Symptoms of Rupture Eardrum:
Pus or blood released from the ear
Diagnosis for Eardrum Rupture:
Otoscope Exam: In this type of examination, doctors use specialised instruments with light to see the ear canal.
Audiology Exam: In this type of examination, doctors test the hearing range and capacity of the person.
Tympanometry: In this type of test, doctors insert a tympanometer into the eardrum to check the ear responses on pressure change.
Treatment of Rupture Eardrum:
There are many treatment options available for rupture eardrum. Doctors advise these treatments depending upon the severity and condition to provide relief from pain, eliminate infection, and prevent hearing loss in future. Some of the treatments are listed below:
If the condition is not critical, doctors usually prescribe medicines to the patient. These medicines help to clear up the infection and protect a person from developing a perforated eardrum. Doctors may also prescribe some ear drops along with medication.
In this type of treatment, doctors place a medicated patch on the eardrum. This patch encourages tears to heal and grow back together.
Ruptured eardrum can be easily cured with these two methods of treatment. However, in rare cases, doctors recommend surgery to patch the tear. This type of surgery is known as Tympanoplasty. In this method, the surgeon takes a part of tissue and grafts it over the tear of the eardrum.
Above are some of the common methods of treating ruptured eardrums. However, it is always advisable to consult a doctor before reaching any conclusion. Also, taking some preventive measures like keeping ears dry, clean, infection free, etc. can help a person protect his/her ears from being punctured or ruptured. Do not insert anything inside the ear canal in an attempt to clean ear wax.
Loss of hearing cannot be reversed or cured. However, it can be treated. Even people who have lost all hearing can hear sounds again with the help of modern medicine. Treatment for hearing loss depends on a number of factors. This includes the type of hearing loss, the severity of hearing loss, budget etc. The most common treatment options for a loss of hearing are:
Removal of Wax Blockage: Ear wax that accumulates in the inner ear canal is a common cause for the temporary loss of hearing. In such cases, cleaning the ear wax can help restore hearing. This should not be attempted at home as damaging the ear canal can result in a permanent hearing loss. To remove the ear wax, a doctor will need to loosen it with oil and then suction out the softened wax.
Surgery: Loss of hearing caused due to a traumatic ear injury can be treated with surgery. This usually involves the insertion of small tubes to help fluid drain out of the ear. This surgery may also be beneficial in the case of a temporary loss of hearing caused by recurrent infections.
Hearing Aids: Permanent loss of hearing is usually caused by damage to the inner ear. In such cases, a hearing aid can help. There are many different types of hearing aids available. These hearing aids work by amplifying the sound received and thus making it easier for a person to hear. Hearing aids are removable and can be taken off whenever needed. The most common types of hearing aids are:
Cochlear Implants: Severe hearing loss caused by irreparable damage to the inner ear canal can be treated with a cochlear implant. This works by amplifying sounds and transmitting them to the auditory nerves while bypassing the damaged ear canal. A cochlear implant needs to be surgically inserted behind the ear and can be used by children and adults. Cochlear implants have been successfully used to treat people who were born with a loss of hearing.
Aging comes with many health problems including mild hearing loss. Usually, this mild hearing loss does not come alone. According to medical studies, adults, particularly males with hearing loss, mild or severe, are at a higher risk of developing Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The risk increases as the hearing loss worsen. People with mild hearing loss are at twice the risk of developing dementia compared to people with normal hearing.
Dementia is a group of symptoms and diseases that affects the thinking, memory and social abilities that interfere with the daily functioning of an individual. However, memory loss alone does not mean that one has Dementia. Out of the many causes, Alzheimer’s disease is usually the cause of Dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that affects the brain cells to degenerate and dies, destroying memory and other mental functions.
How Hearing Loss Causes Alzheimer’s?
According to medical studies, hearing loss causes several brain changes which increase the risk of developing Dementia. Hearing loss can lead to brain shrinkage, the process in which the section of the brain responsible for hearing becomes inactive. This condition leads to loss of tissues and alterations in the brain structure, developing as the first connection between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s. Studies show that the brain of people shrinks more quickly who have hearing loss as compared to the brain of an individual with normal hearing.
The second link created with an overwhelmed or overloaded brain. In hearing loss, the brain works overtime in understanding what others are saying. When the brain strains too much only for hearing every time and every day, it exhausts an individual’s mental energy and snatches the brainpower required for other important mental functions, such as thinking, remembering and acting. This can further lead to Dementia, Alzheimer’s and other mental disorders.
Hearing Aids to prevent Dementia and Alzheimer’s
According to various studies, hearing aids are not only helpful in improving one’s hearing but they can also preserve an individual’s mental and emotional health. Early diagnosis and treatment of a possible hearing loss help reduce risks later in life.
At times, the symptoms of undiagnosed hearing loss are mistaken with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Hearing impairment makes it challenging for an individual to listen and respond to verbal signs. It increases the feeling of confusion, paranoia, and isolation.
Hearing aids can relieve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. According to a study hearing aids slow down the rate of memory loss and improve an individual’s quality of life.
Adults, especially males with hearing loss have a greater tendency of developing Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Hearing loss causes brain to overwork leading to the loss of important mental functions. Hearing impairment can worsen the symptoms of Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Hearing aids do help in improving the condition and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and improve one’s quality of life. A timely diagnosis can make a big difference.
Your hearing is one of the most important functions your body carries out and sometimes you realize that you are losing your sense of hearing when it is too late to get it back. There are two main reasons for this. One of the reasons is age, as the inner ear's hair cells break down and do not pick up sound well.
Here are 7 ways to safeguard your hearing.
1. Try to avoid loud places
It is not advisable to go to places where you have to shout to be heard such as in a street, a concert or a construction site.
2. Buy low noise rating equipment
The equipment in your house will make sounds that you hear the most. Try to avoid this equipment by buying appliances with a low noise rating.
3. Wear hearing protection at loud places
However, it is true that it is not always possible to avoid loud noises. This is when you need to get hearing protection. Earplugs and earmuffs are two of the best ways to make sure that even when you are in a loud place, your hearing does not get affected. Earplugs and earmuffs generally reduce sound by 15 to 30 decibels which may be crucial to making sure that later in your life, you do not lose your hearing.
4. Avoid smoke
Smoking raises your chances of hearing loss. Second-hand smoke does the same thing. Therefore, try to stop smoking if you are a smoker, and try to stop consuming second-hand smoke if you are not a smoker.
5. Remove earwax properly
Earwax cannot be removed properly using a cotton swab. Instead, you should use an irrigation kit. Remember this as otherwise; the earwax could muffle your hearing.
6. Avoid medications which reduce hearing
Certain medications increase hearing loss. Therefore, double-check with your doctor to make sure your medicines will not make you lose your hearing.
7. Get your hearing tested
Finally, get your hearing tested as identifying the problem early on can help stop worsen the situation.
The hearing is one of the five senses that you or anyone else rely on for communication and a whole host of other things. Among the five senses, touch, smell, taste, hearing and sight, it is often hearing, which is the most easily affected. You don't have to be a senior citizen to experience hearing loss as it is quite common among younger people as well. This problem is also getting widespread with each passing day.
Before coping with hearing loss, the first job is to detect it-
If you have a hunch that you or any of your loved ones is suffering from hearing loss, it is important that you get it diagnosed. Some of the common symptoms of hearing loss will be:
Although this condition tends to affect senior citizens, an increasing trend shows younger people i.e. people mostly in their 40 and 50s and even younger than that suffer from this condition.
How to deal with hearing loss?
Some of the options to deal with hearing loss are mentioned below.
SSHL is not like any other normal hear-loss trouble. Rather it is quite a severe condition. Sudden deafness can occur at any time due to several reasons. This trouble does not affect both the ears rather only one specific ear is usually affected, and thus this is one of the prominent signs that can help the doctors to understand that SSHL has occurred.
What are the leading causes of this hearing loss?
- Head injury: If you have faced any severe kind of head injury ever, then it might bring SSHL. This is why you are suggested to get necessary treatment on time so that this kind of hearing loss can be avoided.
- Loud-noise exposure: If your ears are exposed to louder noises or sounds in a consistent manner, then there is a greater possibility of the occurrence of this hearing loss. Thus, you should stay away from unwanted noises.
- Ageing: With the increase in age, hearing power slowly decreases. However, if you take proper precautions from the very beginning, then SSHL can be definitely avoided.
- Blood-circulation troubles: Interrupted blood-circulation creates different physical troubles out of which hearing loss is one of the most prominent ones. And if timely treatment is not provided, then it might get converted into SSHL.
- Ototoxic medication: This kind of medication should not be continued for long without doctor's prescription otherwise SSHL might occur.
How to evaluate this hearing loss?
- History analysis: The history of the patient needs to be known first otherwise SSHL cannot be perfectly treated. If the history shows that the patient already has existing trouble of ear loss for which SSHL has been proven, then in accordance with the same the treatment can be prescribed.
- Laboratory and imaging: Laboratory analysis is one of the main methods for evaluating SSHL and necessary images of the ears boost the potentiality and importance of this kind of analysis to a great extent.
- Quick evaluation: This kind of medical evaluation is mainly made on the basis of the symptoms. The doctors often follow the signs thoroughly in order to determine as to whether the patients have SSHL or not. This evaluation is highly supported by different medical tests that are prescribed by the doctor.
Sound is what we hear when vibrations from the source travel through the air and reach our ears. On the contrary, noise is what we describe as ‘unwanted sound’. This unwanted noise is a major cause of hearing loss in children and adults alike.
Too much exposure to loud noises – busy streets, noisy workplaces, loud recreational events, and industrial factories – cause severe damage to the delicate ear nerves, leading to permanent sensorineural hearing loss.
What is Noise-induced Hearing Loss?
In order to understand the mechanism of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), one needs to understand how the normal process of hearing works.
Sound waves entering the outer ear and travelling through the ear canal, reaches the eardrum, which sends vibrations to the three ear ossicles – stapes, incus, and malleus. The ossicles intensify and transmit the sound through vibrations to the fluid within the cochlea. The fluids present within the cochlea then bends the small hair cell receptors and trigger electrical signals to the auditory nerves. The brain converts these signals into sounds we perceive.
When the sound is too loud to handle, the vibrations become larger and causes the fluid motion inside the cochlea to break. Once the cochlear hair cells are damaged, they are unable to activate signals to the brain, which eventually impedes hearing.
What causes NIHL? Who are at risk?
People working in mines, agricultural fields, construction sites, military force, and similar fields are usually at greater risk of Noise-induced Hearing Loss. This is because they are exposed to excessively loud noise throughout the day. Tractors, orchard sprayers, explosives – these produce noise beyond the normal limit, which is 20 – 2000 Hz.
Certain things we do for fun – listening to loud music for long with headphones on or earphones plugged in, going to rock concerts or similar events, shooting – can also cause Noise-induced Hearing Loss.
Warning Signs to Look Out For:
A single incidence of excessively loud noise has the potential of creating a sudden instance of NIHL. However, the damage progresses gradually in most cases and exhibits the following symptoms -
• Sounds become muffled or distorted
• You can hear people but are unable to understand what they are saying
• You are not able to understand or hear from a distance of 3 feet
• You have this constant urge to increase the volume of your Television or Music system
You may not be able to identify the warning signs initially, or you might be hoping that the symptoms will disappear on their own. Nevertheless, if you have ever encountered these signs, then you should get your ears checked by a specialist at the soonest.
How to Prevent NIHL from Getting Worse?
Noise-induced Hearing Loss is preventable. If you adopt a few precautionary measures, you should be able to protect your ears in noisy surroundings and continue listening to your favourite sounds.
• Wear Disposable Earplugs - These earplugs come in various sizes and can reduce the noise levels effectively by 15-30 decibels. Whether it is a live concert, a shooting game, or a usual working day in the factory, you can just plug in these to completely block the ear canals, thereby restricting loud noise from doing further damage to the ears. You will get these at a drug store, or you can get it custom-made to fit in your ears from a healthcare clinic.
• Wear Earmuffs - These cover the ears completely and seal noise from entering the ear canal. You can pair these with earplugs to reduce the noise levels further.
• Follow the 60/60 Rule - While listening to music on a personal audio device, make sure you do not exceed the volume beyond 60%. Also, ensure that you are not listening to loud music for more than an hour each day. If you are listening to songs on your Smartphone, set the volume cap at 60%.
• Choose Over-the-ear Headphones - In-ear headphones sit very close to the eardrums and are hence more dangerous than Over-the-ear headphones.
• Replace Old Noisy Machine Parts - This holds true for people working in factories and construction sites. Old machine parts produce more noise than the new ones. It is advisable that you replace rusty, noisy machine parts or at least lubricate them frequently to reduce friction and reduce noise.
Once you are aware of the hazards of noise, you should be mindful and take actions accordingly.
Abnormal development of the ear can lead to a lot of complications in the anatomy of the ear such as developmental and hearing problems. It can also give a deformed look to the ear. As such, ear deformity surgery corrects the shape of the ear and facilitates activities inside of it.
Types of ear deformities which can be treated with ear deformity surgery:
Ear deformity surgery is performed by a team of experts and plastic surgeons. Ear reconstruction can also be performed after an ear deformity surgery.