Other hearing and ear problems

Hearing problems, infections and related conditions

There are many different health conditions and diseases that may impact your hearing; these can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss. While some may cause a sudden drop in hearing, others take longer to impact your hearing health. Learn more about the most common hearing diseases and conditions below.

Ear infections

Occurring in the inner ear, middle ear or outer ear, ear infections are often caused by viruses or bacteria. There are several types of ear infections, including:

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Ear infection

Having an ear infection can be stressful, as the pain is intense and often happens without warning. Most common ear infections are harmless, but there are some ear infections that can affect your sense of balance and even cause hearing loss. 

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Otitis media

Also known as a middle ear infection, otitis media occurs when there is inflammation in the middle ear and often when there is impaired middle ear ventilation. 

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Labyrinthitis

Labyrinthitis is an inner ear infection that affects a part of the ear known as the labyrinth. It helps to maintain balance, so when it becomes inflamed, those with the condition often feel dizzy or experience vertigo

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Swimmer's ear

When experiencing otitis externa, the external ear canal which leads from the outer part of the ear to the eardrum, becomes inflamed and uncomfortable.

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Otitis media with effusion

When fluid builds up behind the eardrum, it can be painful and uncomfortable. This condition, known as otitis media with effusion (OME), tends to affect small children in higher numbers than adults but may affect anyone of any age.

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Ear pain and ache

More often than not, earaches are caused by an infection within the ear. Occurring in the inner ear, middle ear or outer ear, ear infections may occur for many different reasons. Earaches may affect one ear at a time or both ears at once, with the pain being intermittent, constant or a combination of the two. The intensity of the pain varies between cases too, from sharp pains in the ear to duller throbbing.

In some cases, you can manage the symptoms of your earache at home by using over-the-counter painkillers and ear drops.

Other common ear problems

There are several other common ear problems that can cause hearing loss, discover some of them below:

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Ear pressure

If you’ve ever had a bad cold or caught a flight, it’s likely that you’ve experienced pressure in the ears or ear congestion. Generally described as a feeling of fullness within the ears, these symptoms may affect your hearing, cause pain or even leave you feeling off-balance. 

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Tinnitus

When coping with tinnitus, being able to recognise the symptoms is an important first step. There are many different forms of tinnitus that people experience that can range in severity.

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Ear wax

Maintaining a healthy level of ear wax is key - too little and you might succumb to bacterial infections, too much and it can block the ear canal causing temporary hearing loss.

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Other hearing conditions also include:

Research has also shown that hearing loss can be linked with health problems as diverse as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. If you or someone you know has any of these conditions, it is recommended to have your hearing checked regularly.

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Ménière's disease

A disorder of the inner ear, Ménière's disease is a progressive condition that can develop at any age. It affects balance and hearing, causing vertigo, dizziness and hearing loss.

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Otosclerosis

Otosclerosis is a condition that sees abnormal bone growth occur within the middle ear.

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Surfer's ear (exostosis)

Also known as surfer’s ear, exostosis is a condition that results in the growth of additional bone within the ear canal. It may occur in just one ear or both. 

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Mastoiditis

Mastoiditis is a bacterial infection that affects the mastoid, a delicate bone behind the ear and is the rarest of all ear infections.

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Other chronic diseases linked to hearing

Research has also shown that hearing loss can be linked with health problems as diverse as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. If you or someone you know has any of these conditions, it is recommended to have your hearing checked regularly.

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