What is the function of the ear? The ear is made up of three main parts: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Each of these parts helps move sound through the process of hearing. The outer ear opens into the ear canal, which is separated from the middle ear by the eardrum. The middle ear contains three small bones, which help transfer sound to the inner ear. The inner ear contains the cochlea, which changes sound into neurological signals, and the auditory nerve, which takes sound to the brain.
Earwax, or cerumen, is produced by the body as a self-cleaning agent with protective and antibacterial properties. Earwax is formed in the outer one-third of the ear canal but is often pushed against the eardrum using Q-tips or other foreign objects. To clean the ears, you should wash the external ear but not insert any foreign objects (even Q-tips) into the ear canal, as this can cause wax to build up against the eardrum.
As with many bodily functions, earwax serves a purpose and does not usually require any care by an individual. However, if you experience an earache, fullness in the ear, partial hearing loss or tinnitus, it may be due to cerumen impaction. If you experience any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment for evaluation and removal by an ENT physician is recommended.
The ear is made up of three main parts: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Each of these parts help move sound through the process of hearing. The outer ear opens into the ear canal, which is separated from the middle ear by the eardrum. The middle ear contains three small bones, which help transfer sound to the inner ear. The inner ear contains the cochlea, which changes sound into neurological signals, and the auditory nerve, which takes sound to the brain.
Each of these parts is susceptible to infections, which can be painful. Ear infections are most common in children, as they are more susceptible to infections than adults. If you believe you or your child may have an ear infection, schedule an appointment with one of our physicians today.
Outer Ear Infection (Otitis Externa)
Outer ear infections result from inflammation, often bacterial, in the outer ear. They are most commonly known as “swimmer’s ear”, as the infections occur when water, sand, or dirt get into the ear canal. Moisture in the air or frequent swimming makes the ear more prone to this type of ear infection. Symptoms include severe pain, itching, redness and swelling in the outer ear, and some fluid drainage. Outer ear infections are typically treated with eardrops that block bacterial growth. If the infection is severe enough, your physician may prescribe an antibiotic and pain medication. Most outer ear infections resolve in seven to ten days, but seeing a physician is crucial to ensure that there are no long-term complications such as hearing loss or bone and cartilage damage.
Middle Ear Infection (Otitis Media)
Middle ear infections result from an inflammation of the middle ear. The infections can be either bacterial or viral. Middle ear infections can occur due to a cold, allergy, or upper respiratory infection, or when the Eustachian tube is blocked. In chronic cases, a thick fluid may be discharged from the middle ear. Treatment is dependent on the cause of the infection (bacterial or viral) and can include analgesic eardrops, oral medications, and the surgical insertion of a tube to drain fluid from the middle ear.
Inner Ear Infection (Otitis Interna)
Inner ear infections are most commonly caused by other infections in the body, particularly sinus, throat or tooth infections. Also known as labyrinthitis, symptoms include dizziness, fever, nausea, vomiting, hearing loss, and tinnitus.