Ear surgery may be indicated for a variety of reasons, including conductive hearing loss caused by a structural abnormality in different parts of the ear. Conditions that cause blockage of the ear canal, and thus interference with the passage of sound waves, may be as simple as earwax or a foreign body that can be removed with irrigation and/or manual removal with a curette or other instrument. However, other causes of obstruction may require surgery to remove or modify more serious structural abnormalities.
Ear Conditions that May Require Surgery
- Atresia of the Ear Canal – When the external ear canal is not formed correctly at birth it is known as atresia of the ear canal and can lead to hearing difficulties along with other ear disorders. Usually only one side is affected. Atresia of the ear canal can be complex to manage, however, many individuals benefit from surgical reconstruction of the ear canal with or without a device that helps transmit sound waves like a normal eardrum.
- Bony Growths of the Ear Canal – Noncancerous growths of the bones that make up the ear canal can cause narrowing that contributes to wax or water buildup. Most cases can be managed with routine irrigation of the ear canal to prevent build up, however, occasionally surgery may be required to shave any bony abnormality contributing to the narrowing.
- Chronic Otitis Media – When infections of the middle ear become recurrent or chronic (lasting more than 2 months), ear tubes are often placed to remove the pressure and fluids that can build up behind the eardrum. It is a common procedure done in children, however, we perform them in adults as well. The medical term is myringotomy with tube insertion.
- Eardrum Malformations, Retractions and Perforations – Severely deformed eardrums or ones that have become retracted from too much negative pressure from eustachian tube functions may require surgery for improved hearing and decreased risk for ear infections. Most eardrum perforations heal on their own but severe case or those that cause significant scarring of the eardrum may require surgery. Also known as a tympanoplasty, eardrum surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure by otolaryngologists like Dr. Bailey.
When hearing becomes difficult and there is no structural cause that can be corrected with medication, surgeries or other procedures, hearing aids are often considered not only to restore hearing but improve quality of life and social interaction. Approximately 37 million individuals in the United States alone use hearing aids. These tiny electrical devices that enhance the transmission of sound through the ear and to the brain have come a long way with the help of technological advances, dramatically improving the lives of millions along the way. The basic hearing aid includes a tiny microphone, receiver, amplifier volume controller and battery. They can be adjusted depending on how noisy the room is and newer models are able to focus in on the desired source of the sound.
Candidates for hearing aids include those with mild or moderate hearing loss that affects their daily life. They are not typically indicated for those with mild or very severe hearing loss. Therefore, before a hearing aid can be recommended, a hearing test should be performed to first identify the source of the hearing loss, its severity and whether or not a hearing aid will be of benefit. Now a days, there are numerous types and styles of hearing aids to choose from. Depending on the specific type of hearing loss, style and cost, several options exist. The smaller and more discrete aids tend to be more expensive but there are options for every budget.