Properly functioning ears help you connect with your surroundings. If a problem arises with any part of the ear, you may experience discomfort, often accompanied by hearing loss. Identifying and treating any ear disorder at the first sign of trouble is important as early intervention leads to the most effective treatments.
A ruptured, or perforated, eardrum is a tear in the thin membrane that separates the inner ear from the middle ear. The eardrum is an important part of how we hear, as it is instrumental in the process of converting a sound wave that enters the ear into an electrical signal that gets sent to the brain. The eardrum also works as a barrier to keep water and other objects from entering the middle ear. The most common symptoms of a ruptured eardrum are a sudden sharp pain, drainage from the ear, buzzing or hearing loss. Some may not feel anything at all. The treatment for a tear in the eardrum is minimal; usually the eardrum will heal on its own within three months. To prevent ear infections, you may be prescribed antibiotic drops. To prevent pain, over-the-counter pain medication can be taken. If the eardrum is slow to heal or the perforation is too large, surgery may be needed.
An acoustic neuroma is a benign tumor of the cranial nerve that connects the inner ear and the brain. Though noncancerous and typically slow growing, it can affect both hearing and balance, and may cause hearing loss, tinnitus and dizziness. Your otolaryngologist can diagnose an acoustic neuroma primarily through a review of your symptoms in conjunction with a hearing test and imaging scans (CT or MRI). Because growth of the tumor is usually very slow, many times your doctor will simply want to monitor the tumor’s progress over time, especially when few symptoms are present. Regular imaging tests every six to 12 months can track any growth. Surgery may be an option for tumors that are growing or causing symptoms. Gamma Knife radiosurgery delivers radiation without the need for an incision, but results can take a long time. More invasive surgery may be required, especially if your tumor is growing close to the brain or facial nerve.