External Ear Infection (otisis externa): Also known as Swimmer’s Ear, external ear infections can often be treated with antibiotic ear drops. Severe infections, however, require evaluation and additional treatment by an ear nose and throat specialist.
Middle Ear Infections (or Otitis Media): Middle ear infections are very common in childhood and in some adults and are often treated with oral antibiotics. Severe or recurrent middle ear infections require ENT evaluation and treatment. This may involve surgically inserting a small tube into the ear to help ventilate the middle ear space (ear tube or tympanostomy tube).
Injuries to the Ear Drum: The ear drum, or tympanic membrane, can be damaged by infections or other diseases of the middle ear. This damage could consist of a hole (tympanic membrane perforation), or poor movement due to fluid or a vacuum behind the ear drum. This can result in significant hearing loss.
Treatments for ear drum disorders can consist of placing an ear tube or other surgeries to repair the ear drum. Alternatively, better ventilation of the middle ear can be established by improving function of the eustachian tube, which connects the ear to the back of the nose. Eustachian tube dysfunction therapy uses nasal anti-inflammatory medications and occasionally anti-acid reflux medications (Damage from acid reflux and allergies can cause dysfunction of the Eustachian tube and the middle ear).
Hearing Loss: Hearing loss is common as we age. When it causes problems in terms of social functioning, an evaluation by an audiologist and an ENT specialist is advised prior to considering hearing aids. Certain patterns of hearing loss (such as sudden hearing loss or asymmetric hearing loss) require immediate attention by an ENT. In some cases, there are reversible causes for these problems. Special testing, such as an MRI, may be required as well.
Tinnitus: Tinnitus —the feeling of “ringing” in your ears — is often a by-product of hearing loss. Certain types of tinnitus, however, may be due to other causes. A thorough evaluation by an ENT professional can rule out concerning causes and help manage the condition.
All MultiCare ENT offices offer comprehensive hearing testing (audiology) services as well as state-of-the-art hearing aid dispensary services.