FAQ on Ear and Hearing Loss

Why do I have ear wax?

Ear wax (cerumen) is normal in healthy ears. Its purpose is to moisturize and protect the skin of the ear canal and to trap dust and particles before they reach the ear drum. Cerumen is formed in the outer part of the ear canal. Normally, wax makes its way to the outer opening of the ear canal, flakes up, and falls out.

How common are ear infections in young children?

Ear infections are very common in children. Between 60 and 80 percent of infants have at least one episode by the time they turn one year old.By age three, it’s 80 to 90 percent.

Are all ear infections alike?

No. Ear infections are of two types: outer ear and middle ear. Outer ear infections usually occur when children get water in the ear (swimmer’s ear). Middle ear infections tend to occur where children congregate in large numbers, such as day-care centers.

How should ear infections be treated?

They can be treated with antibiotics although some may improve on their own. Unfortunately, ear infections are becoming more difficult to treat as the bacteria responsible for them becomes antibiotic-resistant (the antibiotics don’t work anymore). The unnecessary use of antibiotics actually contributes to this problem, so health care professionals are becoming more cautious about prescribing them.

Is it ok to travel by air with an earache?
If you have an earache and are planning to travel by air, it is important to be sure that you do not have an ear infection. The change in pressure during takeoff and landing can cause pain and in some cases, the eardrum can rupture in people who have an infection.Air travel is sometimes associated with rapid changes in air pressure. To maintain comfort, the Eustachian tube must open frequently and wide enough to equalize the changes in pressure. This is especially true when the airplane is landing, going from low atmospheric pressure down closer to earth where the air pressure is higher.

Actually, any situation in which rapid altitude or pressure changes occur creates the problem. It may be experienced when riding in elevators or when diving to the bottom of a swimming pool. Deep sea divers, as well as pilots, are taught how to equalize their ear pressure. Anybody can learn the trick too.

Is there a cure for ringing/buzzing (tinnitus) in the ears? 
Ringing or buzzing in the ears, or tinnitus, can be temporary or permanent. Infections, large doses of aspirin, and certain medications as well as exposure to loud noise or music can cause tinnitus. In some cases, tinnitus is temporary and resolves on its own. Although there is no cure for tinnitus, there are ways to manage it.

Can I get an earache from using the telephone?
It is possible to develop an infection or inflammation as a result of using the telephone. The surface of the telephone often contains bacteria that are spread from the hands. Cleaning the handset of your telephone with antibacterial wipes that are especially designed for this purpose can help lessen your risk of infection.

Is dizziness related to ear diseases?

Some people describe a balance problem by saying they feel dizzy, lightheaded, unsteady, or giddy. This feeling of imbalance or disequilibrium, without a sensation of turning or spinning, is sometimes due to an inner ear problem.

What Is Motion Sickness and Sea Sickness?

Some people experience nausea and even vomiting when travelling in an airplane, automobile, or during amusement park rides – this is called motion sickness. Many people experience motion sickness when travelling on a boat or ship, and this is called seasickness even though it is the same disorder.

Motion sickness or seasickness is usually just a minor annoyance and does not signify any serious medical illness, but some travelers are incapacitated by it, and a few suffer symptoms for a few days after the trip.

If I have a hearing loss, can I get my hearing back?

Hearing loss may be temporary or permanent, depending on the type and intensity. Even if you have lost some hearing, it is important to protect the hearing ability that remains. If your job or other activities require exposure to loud noise, begin using ear protection right away, and get a hearing test periodically to make sure the protection is adequate.

Is hearing loss hereditary?

Some forms of hearing loss can be inherited. Not all inherited forms of hearing loss take place at birth, however. Some forms can show up later in life. In otosclerosis, which is thought to be ahereditary disease, an abnormal growth of bone prevents structures within the ear from working properly.

Air travel is sometimes associated with rapid changes in air pressure. To maintain comfort, the Eustachian tube must open frequently and wide enough to equalize the changes in pressure. This is especially true when the airplane is landing, going from low atmospheric pressure down closer to earth where the air pressure is higher.

Actually, any situation in which rapid altitude or pressure changes occur creates the problem. It may be experienced when riding in elevators or when diving to the bottom of a swimming pool. Deep sea divers, as well as pilots, are taught how to equalize their ear pressure. Anybody can learn the trick too.