Ear disorders are invisible handicaps that cause psychological stress and affects the health of the person. Our ears consist of the three major parts - the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear includes the ear canal and the pinna, which is the visible part of the ear. The middle ear is responsible for hearing and balancing as it contains the balance organs. The inner ear which is located behind the eardrum and it contains tiny bones, incus, stapes, and the malleus, that transmits sound from the eardrum to the inner ear. There are infections that can be caused by the bacteria or fungus and can affect the parts of the ear. Some infections lead to the impairment with the hearing function and can also affect the functioning of other parts of the body.
Some of the infections are:
1. Otitis media
Otitis media is an inflammation in the middle ear, and it is one of the major cause of impaired hearing. The inflammation usually begins with the viral or bacterial infection that cause problems such as a sore throat, cold, breathing problems, and spread these problems to the middle ear. Otitis media is of two types.
Acute Otitis media - This type of otitis media can be characterized by the pain in the ears. It is most common in children, which results in increased crying and poor sleep. An upper respiratory infection usually precedes it.
Otitis Media with effusion - This type of otitis media is without any symptoms, and it is characterized by the non-infectious fluid that remains for more than three months.
Children are more likely to be attacked by the otitis media as compared to adults, and there are many reasons for this. Firstly, The immune system of children are developing and quite weak; thence, they find it difficult to fight infections. Secondly, the eustachian tube in the children as shorter and straighter as compared to adults and this tube blocks easily with the mucus from a cold. The eustachian tube connects the upper part of the throat to the middle ear. The eustachian tube regularly opens up to clear the air in the middle ear, but blockage interferes with the functioning of it. Thirdly, Adenoids that helps in fight infection are large in children as compared to adults, and an enlarged adenoid interferes in the opening of the eustachian tube.
2. Otitis externa
Otitis externa is an inflammation in the ear canal, which is the outer part of the ear. It is also known as swimmer’s ear, and it is accompanied by the pain and itching. It is caused due to fungal or bacterial infection, and it is characterized by the red and swollen skin that lines the outer ear canal. Otitis externa can occur in the people of any age group, and it occurs when the water does not drain out properly from the outer ear canal. The skin often becomes soft when the water stays for a longer duration, and it makes it easy for bacterias to enter the skin and cause an infection. The ear of the swimmer never gets a chance to dry out; therefore, they are more likely to be affected by the infection. Some of the symptoms that can be experienced by a person suffering from otitis externa include high temperature, reduced hearing power, and humming or buzzing sound. Patients generally develop fungal otitis externa, and it occurs when the ear canal becomes extremely moist. Also, on rare occasions, a person might suffer from malignant otitis externa, in which an infection invades the surrounding soft tissue and bones. It is a medical emergency that usually occurs in old people having diabetes. If the otitis externa lasts for more than three months, then it is considered as chronic otitis externa, which is the result of allergies and autoimmune disorders.
3. Vestibular neuronitis
Vestibular neuronitis is an inflammation of the vestibular nerve, and it is a problem that occurs in the inner ear. It is caused by a virus that damages a vestibular nerve, and this nerve is responsible for sending messages about the movement and balancing between the inner ear and the brain. According to the various studies, it can be a cause of decreased blood flow in the inner ear, exposure to the toxic agents and allergies. The symptoms of vestibular neuronitis range from mild to severe and some of the common symptoms include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, imbalance, difficulty in walking, and severe vertigo. Vestibular neuronitis does not impair the hearing function of the person. Normally, dizziness lasts for days, and vestibular imbalance can present for months to years with rapid head and body.