About twenty percent of all Americans report having some degree of hearing loss. But could many of those cases have been prevented with better ear care?

The cause of an earache or ear infection can be viral, bacterial or fungal. Trying to figure out which of these it is yourself and treat it can be difficult.

Read on to learn the symptoms of several common ear issues and to find out what you can do about them.

1. Ear Infections

Ear infections most commonly occur in the middle ear. Children are much more likely to get them than adults, so it is important that they have a proper ear care routine.

Ear infections seem to be more common during the fall and winter as well as for those who have seasonal allergies. Exposure to tobacco smoke can also increase your risk.

What to Do

Many ear infections will clean up on their own. A proper ear care routine may be all you need.

Try taking ibuprofen and monitoring the problem to see if it subsides in a couple days.

You should see a doctor is the pain is severe or if you have a child under six months who is displaying symptoms.

2. Tinnitus

Tinnitus is the medical term for ringing in your ears when no sound is present.

Although it is not considered a serious medical illness, the condition can be unbearably annoying. In some cases, it could be a sign that you have another underlying medical condition that you should see a doctor about.

Causes of Tinnitus include:

  • Fluid in the ear
  • Infection
  • Disease of the middle ear
  • Damage to the nerve endings
  • Loud noise exposure
  • Medications
  • Meniere’s Syndrome

Keep a close eye on these.

What to Do

If you have ringing in your ears that is persistent, then you should go to your doctor for ear care.

They will be able to perform a physical examination on you and determine the cause of your Tinnitus.

Depending on the underlying condition, your doctor may prescribe a variety of treatments and order a large panel of tests.

If you are trying to relieve your symptoms at home, you should consider reducing your caffeine and salt intake and quit smoking.

3. Meniere’s Disease

Meniere’s is a disease of the inner ear that causes vertigo as well as hearing loss. It can feel like you have pressure in your ear and typically only affects one ear or the other. It’s a chronic condition that can eventually lead to a permanent hearing loss.

What to Do

If you have two episodes of vertigo that last longer than twenty minutes, hearing loss, or a feeling of fullness in your ear, you should see your doctor for ear care.

They will perform both a hearing and balance test on you to confirm the diagnosis. Then, they will prescribe medications that can help with motion sickness and nausea.

Unfortunately, for Meniere’s, there is no cure. The only thing that can be done is alleviate the vertigo symptoms.

4. Ear Barotrauma

Ear barotrauma refers to the injury you sustain from failing to equalize the pressure in your ear.

It often occurs when people are scuba diving or flying on an airplane.

Symptoms include ear pain, hearing loss, vertigo, tinnitus, and blood loss from the ear.

What to Do

Diagnosis of this condition is based on your medical history. You will be asked if you have been diving or flying recently when you visit your doctor.

They will also confirm their diagnosis with hearing and vestibular tests.

The condition is treated by clearing the ear canal and allowing the ear to have time to heal.

Make sure you keep your ear as dry and free from contaminants as possible during this process.

5. Earwax Blockage

An earwax blockage can make living a pain-free life feel impossible. It occurs when too much buildup has occurred and your ear is not able to clear the wax away naturally.

Symptoms of a blockage include:

  • Earache
  • The feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Decreased hearing in the ear
  • Vertigo
  • A cough
  • Tinnitus

Any of these could be symptoms of a blockage.

What to Do

Although an earway blockage may seem like a condition that can be treated with very straightforward ear care, removal is best done by a doctor.

When you have a lot of buildup of wax, it becomes easier to damage your delicate eardrum and ear canal.

6. External Otitis

External Otitis is another name for the popular condition, “swimmer’s ear”. Its symptoms include inflammation that is caused by water being retained in the ear canal.

Typically, the pain is only in one ear and the ear canal may become itchy. In addition, the outer ear may show redness and the ear may drain fluid. You may also have ringing in your ears.

When water is present, the dark, warm, and moist area inside your ear can promote bacterial growth making you more likely to develop an infection.

What to Do

If you think you or your child may have swimmer’s ear, then you should see your doctor for antibiotics. The condition could worsen if left on its own.

If your child has been consistently developing swimmer’s ear infections, then you should consider having tubes put in their ears. They can help to drain the fluid and keep ear pressure at a normal level.

7. Perforated Eardrum

A ruptured or perforated eardrum is the term for a hole or tear in the tissue that separates the ear canal from the middle ear. It can result in hearing loss and make your ears more vulnerable to infections and injury.

Find out more about perforated eardrums so that you can evaluate if it might be the source of your discomfort.

What to Do

Typically, perforated eardrums heal on their own within a few weeks. However, sometimes ear care is required.

There are procedures and surgeries that your doctor will suggest if he believes treatment is necessary.

8. Foreign Object Lodged

There have been all sorts of objects found in people’s ears from cockroaches to flies, illegal drugs, plant material and more. The condition is diagnosed whenever a visible foreign body is present in the ear.

What to Do

There are a variety of techniques that can be used to get objects out of the ear. They can be extracted with tweezers, suctioned out, or flushed out with an irrigation technique.

If there is something lodged in your ear and these methods didn’t remove it, then you should see a doctor to have it removed, you don’t want to end up doing more damage than good.

9. Vestibular Neuronitis

This condition is characterized by a severe attack of vertigo that comes on suddenly. It occurs when your vestibular nerve is inflamed most often by a virus.

The symptoms can last seven to ten days and can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and rapid jerking eye movements. People with this condition do not have ringing in their ears and their hearing is not typically affected.

What to Do

Your doctor will prescribe medications to relieve your vertigo and vomiting. They also sometimes call in an order for a corticosteroid drug like Prednisone.

10. Otosclerosis

Otosclerosis is a disease in the bones of your ear. It occurs when the bones become an immovable mass that can’t transmit sound.

It’s typically an inherited condition caused by an autosomal dominant pattern. People affected by this condition generally start to lose their hearing between age ten and thirty.

What to Do

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of ear care remedies for this condition. All you can do is monitor the condition and purchase hearing aids when they become necessary.

Some patients may consider a cochlear implant or other hearing restoration surgery.

When to Get Ear Care

When you have pain or an injury, ear care isn’t always necessary. But ignoring discomfort can also lead to worsening of your condition.

Knowing when to call your doctor is key. They have technology that can be used to detect the source of your pain.

If you have symptoms that last more than twenty-four hours, then it is time to start investigating where you can go for help.

Whenever you see fluid coming out of your ear, whether it is pus or blood, you should make plans to see a doctor immediately.

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