There are a number of different types of ear
problems which may require medical treatment.
The general categories of ear problems would include
infections, hearing disorders, inflammatory disorders,
neurologic problems and various benign or malignant
tumors. The physicians at Eastern Carolina ENT
Head & Neck Surgery, offer treatment
for a wide variety of ear problems.
Acute Ear Infections
infections which can
be resolved with antibiotics are quite common.
Frequently, children will have difficulties with
recurring ear infections. Some children have recurrent
infections that are frequent enough that they
are considered candidates for myringotomy tubes
(tubes in the eardrums). There is no rigid criteria
to designate who is a candidate for myringotomy
tubes and who is not. The decision is carefully
made for each patient after considering their
exact circumstances as well as the wishes of the
parents and the pediatrician. Another important
factor in this decision is the child's status
with regard to speech development. The child who
has delay of normal speech development may be
more likely to be considered a candidate for tubes.
The reason for this is that recurring infections
and/or persistent fluid in the ears often means
the child spends significant periods of time with
poor hearing. This often causes slower development
of speech and language learning. A child having repeated ear infections or with ear fluid, seen by your physician that doesn't clear within 6-8 weeks, should be evaluated by one our physicians.
It is well known that children are best able
to learn speech during their younger years, and
it is very important to make sure that children
are hearing well so that each child can develop
the best possible speech. For children who have
tubes placed for recurring ear infections, it
has also been well demonstrated that ear infections
are much less frequent. This can often dramatically
reduce the frequency of illness for the child,
ear infections in particular. In many cases, the
quality of life is better for the child and family.
In addition to acute ear infections, chronic
ear infections are also fairly common. Chronic
inflammation of the ears is often present in children
who fail to clear the fluid behind the eardrum
after an ear infection. Fluid persisting for approximately
three months or more is generally considered to
be chronic. The likelihood that this fluid will
clear is very small after this period of time.
These children will generally need tubes placed
in order to clear the fluid. The primary problem
with chronic fluid is hearing loss. As discussed,
hearing is particularly important for young children.
Chronic Ear Infection
Chronic infection is also seen in both children
and adults. This is a different problem from chronic
fluid just discussed. This usually manifests as
either intermittent or persistent infected drainage
from the ear. Hearing loss may be present. Occasionally,
patients may have dizziness or pain in the ear.
These types of infections can sometimes be managed
with simple medical treatment in the office but
often require surgery to clear the infection.
In addition, chronically infected ears will occasionally
develop skin cysts (cholesteatoma) behind the
eardrum or in the mastoid (the part of the skull
behind the ear). These skin cysts grow slowly
over months and years and can cause serious or
life-threatening infection in or around the brain.
For patients with cholesteatoma and for many patients
with chronic ear infections, surgery is the treatment
of choice. The goals of surgery are to (1) make
the ear safe, (2) clear up the infection and (3)
improve hearing whenever possible.
General Review of Hearing Loss
Tinnitus - (ringing in the ears)
American Tinnitus Association
Information on Tinnitus
Hyperacusis - (normal sounds seem too loud)
information on Balance Disorders
Tympanoplasty - (repair of eardrum and/or hearing bones)
Surgery for cholesteatoma - (a skin cyst in the ear)
Stapedectomy - (repair of the stirrup bone)