Patients with ear disease may present with different symptoms. Hearing loss, earache, tinnitus, discharge, dizziness, vertigo and balance disorders are some of the more common findings. Certain conditions may be serious and require intervention. Sometimes surgery is indicated.
Congenital ear disease includes abnormal structural development of the ear and may occur in isolation or as part of a syndrome such as Treacher Collins syndrome. Impaired function in the newborn and babies may also be due to genetic abnormalities and infections. In older children ear infections are common. Middle ear infection (otitis media) with or without effusion is frequently seen. This is referred to as glue ear, and may require grommet placement.
Furthermore, children are more prone to colds and upper respiratory infections. This may cause ear problems. Allergy to inhalants and food are common in children and can contribute to the development of ear disease.
In adults trauma due to accidents and sport can cause ear disease. Injury to the eardrum can cause perforations and hearing loss. A cholesteatoma is the abnormal collection of skin in the ear and can cause infection and destruction of the ear structures.
Occupational exposure to loud noise, hobbies such as shooting and listening to loud music can cause hearing loss. Surfing in cold water may cause surfers ear where the ear canal becomes narrowed due to new bone growth.
Patient with immunosuppression are more likely to develop ear disease. Patients with HIV and Aids are more susceptible to ear infections. Sometimes medication used to treat certain conditions for instance tuberculosis can cause hearing loss and balance problems.
Sun exposure can cause skin cancer of the outer ear. Smoking and the exposure to irritants may cause tumours in the ear.
In older patients systemic disorders such as hypertension, diabetes and autoimmune disease can affect the ear. Some patients take systemic medication for conditions that may impact on the ear. A genetic predisposition to develop hearing loss in the elderly may lead to hearing loss.