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Hearing & Balance Doctors is currently open. We are taking special measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 including offering a curbside service for hearing aids. Please call 435-688-8991 for more information. Utah: 435-688-8991 | Nevada: 702-896-0031
Hearing & Balance Doctors is currently open. We are taking special measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 including offering a curbside service for hearing aids. Please call 435-688-8991 for more information. Utah: 435-688-8991 | Nevada: 702-896-0031

Everything You Need To Know About Chronic Ear Infections

An ear infection is a painful and frustrating illness for anyone who gets one. But when your ear infections are chronic, this is much more serious and difficult to live with. Caused by residual damage caused by the initial infection, it can cause injury to the bones of the inner ears themselves. This might lead to hearing loss, especially in cases where the eardrum has also been damaged. Other symptoms may include discomfort, pain, tinnitus (a ringing or chime in the head), discharge, dizziness and vertigo, or a weak feeling in the facial muscles.

The Function Of a Healthy Ear

An ear that hasn’t been injured through chronic ear infections functions by passing sound three chambers. The first is the hearing canal, which is the outside portion of the ear. Sound hits the eardrum, before moving into the inner ear behind it. Those vibrations next hit the small bones and fibers of the inner ear, at which point the brain processes the sounds into tones you can recognize.

Each of these three chambers are crucial for hearing, and damage to any part can limit your ability to correctly interpret sounds.

When The Ear Is Damaged

Hearing impairment of different kinds are caused by injury within the three chambers. There are two hearing impairment: conductive and sensorineural. A conductive impairment is defined as any damage to the outer or middle parts of the ear, where sound is gathered. A sensorineural impairment is damage to the inner ear where sound is interpreted by the brain.

Middle Ear Injury and Disease

If either the small bones or the eardrum in the middle ear have been compromised, the vibrations of sound won’t reach the final process of hearing. A perforated eardrum (or an eardrum with a hole in it), or any of the three bones being damaged could be causing the conductive impairment. Scarring of the inner ear might also impact the ear’s ability to transmit sound.

A perforated eardrum is often caused by an untreated infection of the middle ear. While it will often heal, if left unmonitored it may never properly seal. Signs of a continued abscess or rupture may include tinnitus, leakage, and hearing loss in the affected ear.

When the ear has leakage that has a sickly or foul smell, and is consistent, there may be a greater problem. In some cases a patch of skin can begin to heal across the opening of the middle ear forming a cyst. This cyst may begin to destroy the fine bones and fibers in the middle and inner ear. In rare cases it may lead to meningitis, a life threatening condition.

Properly Treating Chronic Ear Infections

At Home It is important to keep the infected ear dry at all times. Regular cleaning of any drainage with q-tip can be carefully done along the outer ear, but not inside the canal. Cotton swabs can be placed gently at the opening without fully blocking it, to allow the leakage to catch in the cotton without settling in the middle ear.

Water should be avoided. Swimming is possible if using an earplug made custom for your ears, by an ears, nose and throat doctor or hearing specialist. When bathing or showering a cotton ball can be inserted into the canal to keep any water from getting in. A layer of vaseline can be used to repel water around the outer ear.

If the nose is blocked, all clearing must be gently done. Do not block one nostril to blow the other. Do not blow too hard, or you risk sending infected mucus through the tubes to the ears, which may exacerbate the problem.

At The Doctor’s Office Your doctor will prescribe you medications, depending on the condition of your ear. Oral antibiotic medications are common, and drops may be applied if your eardrum is not perforated. Pain medication may be given to deal with discomfort. For some patients, a powder may be applied to the ear on several visits.

In cases where the damage is severe, your doctor may suggest surgery. This could include the placement of drainage tubes inside of the body that clear away blockages. In cases where surgery isn’t needed, medication should be enough to heal damage and cure chronic infections.

Major Surgical Interventions

Sometimes a major surgery may be needed to repair damage done to the ear. Now it is possible to actually reconstruct the three chambers that have been injured. It is a triumph that would have been impossible only a couple of decades ago.

Eardrums, for example, can be repaired using grafts that cover different parts of the inner ear.

For the bones in the inner and middle ear, synthetic replacements can be placed to simulate their original placement and allow vibrations to move through the chambers. Scar tissue will be removed, then silastic is placed to reduce the chance of scarring reforming. This promotes normal function, as scar tissue can block vibrations from reaching the brain. Most patients experience an increase in hearing function immediately following this operation.

To learn more about chronic ear infections and treating hearing impairment, visit HearingDoctors.net.