Your ears have two main functions, hearing and balance, and they need to be taken care of just like our eyes, nose and teeth. The ears’ functions depend on specialised receptors called hair cells that are found in our inner ear.
The ear consists mainly of three parts:
- The outer ear, which provides protection and channels sound;
- The middle ear, which transfers sound vibrations from the eardrum to
the inner ear;
- The inner ear (also referred to as the labyrinth because of its complex shape), operates the body’s sense of balance and contains
the hearing organ.
When your hearing is working normally, information is being passed through each section of the ear to your brain. Your brain receives these messages and you will naturally respond. It is important to be aware of how your hearing works so that you can identify situations where you have difficulty hearing.
One of the most common problems that cause people to seek out specialist help is hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss usually occurs from issues involving the eardrum, where problems occur in conducting soundwaves from a buildup of material, such as fluid or ear wax, in the ear. The other type of hearing loss is referred to as sensorineural, which is related to problems with the inner ear due to nerve damage from too much exposure to loud noise, or it may be related to aging. Hearing loss can also be genetic with or without a family history of hearing loss Hearing may even need to be assisted with hearing aids.
The most common ear problem however is ear infections. These are infections in the air-filled space in the middle ear often caused from having a cold, flu or an allergy. Ear infections can either be acute (happen only for a short time) or chronic (either don’t clear up or recur many times). Chronic infections could eventually lead to damage to the middle and inner ear. Children are more likely than adults to get ear infections. The body’s immune system can fight off the infection or it can be treated by taking antibiotics prescribed by the doctor. Signs and symptoms of an ear infection can indicate several conditions. It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis and quick treatment.
Common symptoms of ear infection include:
- Mild pain or discomfort inside your ear
- A persistent feeling of pressure inside your ear
- Pus-like ear drainage
- Hearing loss
Other common ear problems include tinnitus (a roaring in the ears) and Meniere’s disease, that may be a result of fluid problems in your inner ear, the symptoms of which include tinnitus and dizziness.
It’s always important to have regular check-ups of all your organs, and in the case of ear treatments a visit to an ENT ( Ear, Nose and Throat ) specialist will help in identifying problems relating to your ear. The doctor will also be able to check for more serious issues, such as tumors, that could be affecting your sense of balance and recommend hearing aids if your hearing is damaged and needs support. Despite the many common problems that occur in ears, there Are several things you can do to make sure they stay healthy. This includes protecting them from injury, keeping the outsides clean, limiting the amount of loud noise exposure and paying attention to how well you’re hearing. Avoid putting objects inside your ears – including earbuds! If you come across any queries or questions relating to the health of your ears it’s best to set up an appointment with your doctor.