Ear and Balance Disorders
The ear is responsible for two of our most important senses: hearing and balance.
- Ear infections can involve the outer ear. An outer ear infection is commonly referred to as swimmer's ear. An infection can involve the middle ear, and this is more common in children. An inner ear infection can potentially cause a sudden hearing loss or vertigo.
- Hearing loss can be caused by a number of treatable conditions.
- Outer ear causes: wax, or cerumen
- Middle ear causes: fluid behind the ear drum, stiff or arthritic hearing bones, growth in the middle ear such as a cholesteatoma.
- Inner ear causes: sudden hearing loss, usually from a virus, tumors, and presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss.
Evaluation for each of the causes of hearing loss can be done in our office by our providers. Audiology (hearing services) and hearing aid evaluation is done on-site in our office.
Most inner ear disorders include vertigo, which is a spinning sensation. Evaluation often involves a hearing test and a balance test, which is performed in our office.
- Benign positional vertigo is a condition where microscopic stones get loose in the inner ear and can cause brief episodes of spinning when moving the head in a certain direction. Treatment of this condition can be done in the office.
- Viral labyrinthitis is a viral infection of the inner ear which causes severe vertigo, nausea, and occasional hearing loss. People can often have a long period of feeling off-balance. Patients with these conditions can be helped by medicines and physical therapy.
- Meniére's disease is a chronic condition which causes hearing loss (usually on one side), vertigo, ringing, and a full feeling in one ear. This is thought to be caused by an increase in fluid in the inner ear. Most patients' symptoms are controlled with a low-salt diet and a water pill, however, occasionally surgery is needed.
- Migraine-induced vestibulopathy is vertigo caused by migraine headaches. The treatment involves medicines to control the migraine disorder.