What is Chronic Ear Disease?
Chronic ear disease usually refers to two conditions:
- Chronic Otitis Media (Middle Ear Infection): Ear infections usually clear up on their own. For some patients, however, the infection doesn’t heal. Instead, it turns into a long-lasting problem called chronic otitis media. Chronic infections often occur when the eustachian tube becomes blocked and fluids build up. When a chronic infection goes untreated, it can slowly erode the bones in your middle ear or cause an abscess behind the ear called mastoiditis. The infection may spread to your inner ear, where it can cause hearing loss and, in severe cases, it can affect your facial nerves or brain.
- Cholesteatoma: A cholesteatoma is an overgrowth of skin or a cyst that develops behind your eardrum. As the cholesteatoma slowly enlarges, it may damage small bones in your ear and cause dizziness or hearing loss. A cholesteatoma may also grow to involve facial nerves or your brain.
What Symptoms Develop Due to Chronic Ear Problems?
- Ear pain
- Ear drainage
- Facial muscle weakness
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Difficulty hearing or hearing loss
- Feeling of fullness or pressure in your ear
A cholesteatoma may cause an ache behind your ear that’s especially noticeable at night. When children develop chronic ear infections, parents often notice other symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, ear tugging, crying, and being more irritable than normal.
What Types of Surgery Treat Chronic Ear and Hearing Problems?
The treatment options for chronic otitis media differ from those for cholesteatoma:
- Chronic Otitis Media: To relieve a chronic ear infection, your doctor performs surgery, creating a small hole in the eardrum, then suctioning out the excess fluid, and placing a small tube in the opening. The tube keeps the middle ear ventilated and prevents fluids from accumulating. Some ear tubes stay in place 6-12 months before falling out on their own; others stay in longer and must be surgically removed. Complications caused by chronic otitis media require additional surgical procedures. For example, the doctors at Specialty Physician Associates may reconstruct bones damaged by the infection or drain an abscess.
- Cholesteatoma: The only way to eliminate a cholesteatoma is with surgery to remove the cyst and eliminate infection. Your surgery may include procedures to restore your hearing by reconstructing the bones, eardrum, and other parts of your ear damaged by the cholesteatoma.
To get help for ear pain or hearing loss, call Specialty Physician Associates or book an appointment online.