Diseases of the Ear
Ear diseases can cause a major disturbance that may disrupt the entire body balance. So, What are the most common ear diseases?
First: Problems Causing Conductive Hearing Loss
These problems prevent sound from travelling effectively through the ear canal and middle ear bones. They include:
- Ear Infections: Infections cause fluids to accumulate behind the eardrum, making it unable to vibrate naturally. Thus, they reduce sound vibrations and block the Eustachian tube, preventing it from performing its normal function of venting the ear and removing fluids to maintain pressure inside the middle ear.
- Eardrum Perforation: The many causes of eardrum perforation include recurrent otitis media and the process of removing ear wax, which makes the eardrum unable to vibrate naturally, eventually leading to hearing loss.
- Tissues or Cholesterol Layers: Frequent middle-ear infections and recurrent accumulation of fluids create cholesterol layers in the cavity in some people, which leads to hearing loss.
- Otosclerosis: This is believed to be a genetic issue in which the auditory ossicles grow abnormally or develop calcifications which restrict their movement and elasticity, affecting their natural vibration and sound transmission.
- Wax Layers on the Tympanic Membrane: This happens as a result of using materials not suitable for cleaning the ear, causing an increase in the secretion of wax that enters the ear instead of moving outside it. The wax build-up consequently decreases movement of the eardrum, eventually leading to hearing loss.
Second: Problems Causing Sensorineural Hearing Loss
- Ménière’s Disease: This genetic disease is accompanied by tinnitus in the ears and causes intense fluid accumulation in the ear cavities, which leads to dysfunction in the cells responsible for hearing and balance.
- Old Age: At an old age, a person often cannot hear or interpret high-frequency sounds despite being able to distinguish the intensity of sound in the presence of noise. This is due to the atrophy of hair cells inside the cochlea as a result of aging, especially in the case of patients with diabetes.
- Genetic Diseases: Genes play a role in sensorineural hearing loss in newborns and children even if the symptoms did not appear in parents. Unfortunately, in many families, most, if not all, of the children suffer from hearing loss or impairment. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid marriage between cousins if there is a family history of such cases.
- Certain Medications: Some FDA-approved drugs, such as those used in liver and kidney transplants, can cause sensorineural hearing loss by impairing the hair cells inside the cochlea. Therefore, it is not advisable to take any medications without consulting with a physician who is solely responsible for determining the doses and periods of use in order to avoid their effects on the auditory system as much as possible.
- Exposure to Noise: In some areas associated with noise (such as airports, railways and shooting ranges), the staff should use ear protection to avoid noise and maintain ear safety.
- Unknown Reasons: Some causes of sensorineural hearing loss remain unknown. Some reports revealed that such causes may be responsible for about 30% of hearing loss cases.
Third: Problems Causing Mixed Hearing Loss
This type of hearing loss occurs if the patient suffers from health problems in the ear which simultaneously cause conductive hearing loss in addition to sensorineural hearing loss. For example, a patient with hearing loss may suffer from diabetes as well as previous chronic ear infections.
Hearing Loss Prevention
Measures can be taken to protect your ears and reduce their potential risks. These measures are as follows:
- All women of childbearing age should be immunized against rubella before they conceive.
- Children should be vaccinated against measles, meningitis, rubella and mumps.
- Accelerate immediate medical intervention to treat cases of otitis media in children.
- Avoid using drugs that affect the ears unless under medical supervision.
- Limit occupational and recreational exposure to loud sounds through the following procedures:
- Wear earplugs at concerts or in noisy workplaces.
- Avoid listening to loud sounds by using noise-cancelling headphones.
- Avoid inserting solid objects into the ears.
Steps must be initially taken before we prescribe the digital hearing aid and identify its specifications for the treatment of specific conductive hearing loss cases. These measures include
- Transferring the patient to an ear, nose and throat specialist, who in turn decides to treat the hearing loss either medically or surgically (middle ear ventilation tubes, tympanostomy tubes, perforated eardrum surgery, removal of calcification in ossicles, clearing the ear cavity of cholesterol layers).
- Referring the patient to a hearing aid centre in order to choose the most suitable hearing solutions to improve the hearing level to the best possible degree.