Middle Ear Infections
Middle ear infections result from a bacterial or viral infection in the middle ear as well as a blockage in the Eustachian tube – the tube that runs from the middle ear to the back of the nose and usually drains fluid produced in the middle ear. Several factors can cause this blockage, including allergies; extra saliva or mucus produced during teething, cold or sinus infections; enlarged or infected adenoids or irritation from tobacco smoke. Children and infants are more likely to suffer from a middle ear infection because their Eustachian tubes can be easily blocked, but a middle ear infection may also occur in adults. For children ages 2 or older and adults who are otherwise healthy with only mild symptoms, a wait-and-see approach for the first 48 to 72 hours is often recommended when deciding to seek treatment.
Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal – the area from the opening of the ear to the eardrum. It is usually caused by water or moisture that stays in the ear canal after swimming. Short-term, or acute swimmer’s ear occurs when bacteria grows in this moist, dark environment. Cuts or scratches in the canal can cause breaks in the skin that also allow bacteria to grow. These cuts/scratches are most commonly caused by the use of cotton swabs or hairpins, scratching the inside of your ear canal with a fingernail, or inserting things into your ears such as hearing aids or earphones. Chronic or persistent otitis externa is often caused by fungal infection. See your doctor if you think you or your child may have swimmer’s ear.
Inner Ear Infections
Inner ear infections are much less common and relatively rare. If you have an inner ear infection you are likely to experience hearing loss and dizziness. If you are experiencing symptoms not tied to another illness, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Learn more about ear infections at Health eConnect
Earwax, also called cerumen, has numerous protective functions such as trapping dust and debris, serving as a moisture barrier and killing microorganisms that enter the ear canal.
In general, individuals should not attempt to remove the earwax by inserting objects such as cotton swabs, paper clips or hairpins into the ears. Earwax will most often move out of the ear naturally over time without any assistance. Impaction occurs when the wax builds up or becomes too hard to exit the ear canal naturally.
In general, removing impacted ear wax includes saline irrigations – a salt-water flush of the ear canal – or direct removal under an operating microscope. Once earwax is fully removed, a maintenance regimen of at-home ear irrigations may be required.
Head and neck tumors, both cancerous and non-cancerous, are treated with a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach at Banner Health. We work closely with you to deliver an individualized treatment plan that leverages the most current and effective treatments for the best outcome.
Symptoms of head and neck cancers include, but are not limited to, swelling or soreness that does not heal, pain in the ear or jaw and numbness or weakness in the head and neck region. However, some patients show no symptoms and some with symptoms do not have cancer.
It’s best to schedule an appointment to meet with a doctor if you’re concerned. If diagnosed, your treatment will depend on the type, size and location of the cancer as well as your age and overall health, your team of head and neck cancer specialists will carefully explain the best options for your care and review with you the potential risks and benefits of all procedures.
Learn about our Cancer services
If you are suffering from hearing loss, there are many options for aids to help you hear. It is important to find the right hearing device for you as they are not one-size-fits-all. A hearing test, general medical conditions and the anatomy of your ear will be evaluated to determine which device is appropriate for you.
If you have been using traditional hearing aids and they are no longer helping you hear, you should discuss possible alternatives with your hearing specialist. For some, traditional hearing aids are the only option. However, if you meet the criteria, implantable hearing devices may be a viable option for you:
- Bone-anchored hearing aids – for those with single-sided deafness and conductive (inner ear) or mixed (inner and outer ear) hearing loss who are unable to use conventional hearing aids
- Cochlear implants – for those with severe to profound hearing loss who receive little to no benefit from conventional hearing aids
- Totally implantable hearing aids – for those with moderate to severe hearing loss, these devices are implanted under the skin, making them completely invisible
- Partially implantable hearing aids – for those with moderate to severe hearing loss, these devices are implanted within the middle ear through a minimally invasive procedure
We all experience sinus issues like nasal congestion or a runny nose from time to time, but if you are experiencing these in combination with facial pressure, loss of smell or taste, or colored nasal discharge – lasting longer than a month – you may have a more serious condition.
Depending on your symptoms, an ear, nose and throat specialist, allergist or your primary care physician may prescribe antibiotics or suggest nasal irrigations or sprays. If symptoms persist, a longer course of antibiotics or oral steroids may be used. If these methods are unsuccessful, your physician will likely refer you to a head and neck surgeon.
The cranial base, where all of the critical blood vessels and nerves enter or exit the skull, is one of the most delicate and complex areas of the human body. Diseases of this region include both malignant and benign tumors as well as congenital and anatomical defects. When tumors show signs of growth or interfere with the function of the brain or nerves, surgery may be required.
Today, virtually all areas of the brain and skull base can be reached using advanced minimally invasive procedures meaning no scarring and a shorter hospital stay.
Sleep apnea, when the breathing passages of the nose and throat repeatedly constrict interrupting oxygen flow, may be one of the most widespread chronic conditions in the United States.
Oftentimes people with undiagnosed sleep apnea will feel fatigued or unrested, even after what felt like a full night’s sleep – because in reality, they were waking throughout the night to re-open their air passages. While this can certainly affect your quality of life, more serious cases are associated with risks of high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack.
If you think you may have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), it’s time to see a sleep specialist. At Banner Health, our sleep apnea teams will work with you to determine your diagnosis and to find the right treatment plan.
Learn about our Sleep Medicine services
Tinnitus is the phantom perception of noise in the ears that occurs in the absence of an external sound source. It is estimated that about one in five people experience tinnitus.
Tinnitus by itself is not a disease but may be a symptom of another condition. Some of the most common causes of tinnitus include age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud noises, earwax impaction, certain medications or a stiffening of the middle ear bones. Often, a precise cause is never identified.
If there is no source identified for tinnitus or if the cause is unable to be treated, there are several management options to consider. Often, the tinnitus never goes away completely, so finding strategies for coping with symptoms is critical. Cutting down or stopping smoking/consumption of alcohol along with regular exercise and relaxation may improve the tinnitus. Consultation with an audiologist may also be useful.
Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils, and is evidenced by red, swollen tonsils sometimes coated with white, gray or yellow patches. Other symptoms include difficulty swallowing, fever, enlarged or tender lymph nodes in the neck and extreme fatigue or weakness. Both children and adults can get tonsillitis.
Most cases of tonsillitis can be treated with extra rest, plenty of fluids, throat lozenges and over-the-counter pain medication. If the tonsillitis is caused by bacteria such as group A streptococcus ("strep throat"), your physician may prescribe antibiotics. If you or your child is suffering from frequent tonsillitis your physician may recommend evaluation by an ear, nose, and throat specialist to consider surgery to remove the tonsils, called a tonsillectomy.
If you are experiencing voice-related issues or if you have been examined previously and your symptoms are not improving, it’s important to visit with your primary care physician or your ear, nose and throat specialist. Your physician may determine your condition warrants a further, more detailed evaluation by a laryngologist. A laryngologist studies the larynx, also known as the voice box, is the area of the throat that controls voice, breathing and swallowing.
Larynx disorders can include:
- Vocal nodules or polyps – tissue growths on the vocal cords
- Vocal fold/cord paralysis
- Respiratory papilloma – growths in the airway
- Spasmodic dysphonia – spasms of the vocal cord muscles
Depending on your condition, treatment options include outpatient speech and language pathology therapeutic treatments – just like physical therapy, but for your voice – injections or implants to improve voice quality and swallow function, as well as surgical options such as laser surgery to change anatomy contributing to voice and swallow dysfunction.