The inner ear serves two purposes: hearing and balance. There are mechanisms in the ear that inform the brain about your position, orientation in space and movement to keep you in balance. A false sensation of spinning or whirling, known as vertigo, can occur when the signal to the brain is blocked or misfires. In addition to the sensation of dizziness, symptoms may include headache, nausea, sensitivity to bright light, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, ear pain, facial numbness, eye pain, motion sickness, confused thinking, fainting and clumsiness.
Dizziness can also be a symptom of a more serious medical problem, such as high or low blood pressure, heart problems, stroke, tumor, medication side effect or metabolic disorders. Therefore you should always seek medical attention if you experience ongoing or repetitive dizziness. Some of the more common causes of dizziness include:
Acoustic Neuroma, which is a benign growth on the nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain.
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) occurs when tiny calcium crystals in the ears loosen and begin moving about the wrong part of the ear. It is characterized by sudden, short bursts of dizziness that happen most often as a result of head movement. There is no known cause for BPPV. It usually resolves itself in a matter of days.
Inflammation of the Inner Ear, which can occur for several varying reasons and when connected to dizziness, it may be one symptom of an inner ear infection.
Meniere’s Disease is characterized by long periods of dizziness, lasting from 30 to 60 minutes or more. It is accompanied by symptoms such as ringing in the ears, hearing loss and a feeling of fullness in the ear. There is no known cause or cure for Meniere’s Disease, although medication and behavior changes can help reduce the severity of the symptoms.
Migraines (vestibular migraines) can cause a feeling of imbalance and vertigo. This may be accompanied by ringing in the ears or hearing loss. Migraine-related vertigo may occur in conjunction with or separate from the migraine headache.
If you’re experiencing any form of repetitive or chronic dizziness, please contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our otolaryngologists.
Sound therapy uses different sounds to help the brain re-focus and reduce the emotional impact of the tinnitus. Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), also known as habituation therapy is a treatment that incorporates sound therapy in attempts to retrain your brain into perceiving the tinnitus differently. About 75% of people with tinnitus are not bothered by it because their brains process it and file it as common everyday noise. TRT tries to teach your brain how to process the noise so that it doesn’t bother you as much anymore.
Medications may be an option, especially if they are to treat an underlying condition and relieve those symptoms. However, there are no medications that are linked directly to the treatment of tinnitus. Your physician or hearing specialist will be able to refer you to psychological treatment or support, as tinnitus can be hard to deal with, especially when it is a chronic problem. After management to help tinnitus has taken place, further maintenance is important.
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The ear is made up of three sections: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. Each of these areas is susceptible to infections, which can be painful. Young children have a greater tendency to get earaches. While most ear pain resolves itself in a matter of days, you should get a physical examination to understand the type of infection, prevent it from spreading and obtain treatment to help alleviate the pain.
Outer Ear Infection (Otitis Externa), also known as Swimmer’s Ear, outer ear infections result from an inflammation, often bacterial, in the outer ear. Generally, they happen when water, sand or dirt gets into the ear canal. Moisture in the air or swimming makes the ear more susceptible to this type of ear infection. Symptoms include: severe pain, itching, redness and swelling in the outer ear. There also may be some fluid drainage. Often the pain is worse when chewing or when you pull on the ear. To reduce pain and prevent other long-term effects on the ear, be sure to see a doctor. Complications from untreated otitis externa may include hearing loss, recurring ear infections and bone and cartilage damage. Typically, your doctor will prescribe eardrops that block bacterial growth. In more severe cases, your doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic and pain medication. Most outer ear infections resolve in seven to 10 days.
Middle Ear Infection (Otitis Media) can be caused by either bacterial or viral infection. These infections may be triggered by airborne or foodborne allergies, infections elsewhere in the body, nutritional deficiencies or a blocked Eustachian tube. In chronic cases, a thick, glue-like fluid may be discharged from the middle ear. Treatment is contingent on the cause of the infection and ranges from analgesic eardrops, medications to the surgical insertion of a tube to drain fluid from the middle ear or an adenoidectomy.
Inner Ear Infection (Otitis Interna), also known as labyrinthitis, inner ear infections are most commonly caused by other infections in the body, particularly sinus, throat or tooth infections. Symptoms include dizziness, fever, nausea, vomiting, hearing loss and tinnitus. Always seek medical attention if you think you may have an inner ear infection.
If you suspect you or your child may have an ear infection, please contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our otolaryngologists.