Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.
Tags: Request a referral to an ear | nose | and throat specialist for consultation.

How Do I Treat My Aching Ear?

Tuesday, 29 Jun 2010 10:33 AM


Question: My left middle ear has been so plugged up with a sinus infection my hearing is muffled and it hurts. I have been to an audiologist and there is a little piece of inner ear cartilage floating around. When I do not have a sinus infection it does not bother me. How can I get this taken care of?

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

First of all, there is no cartilage that can "float around" in the inner ear. The external ear refers to areas external to the tympanic membrane (ear drum). The middle ear consists of the ossicles (bones for hearing), mastoid air cells, and the ear drum. The healthy middle ear usually does not have fluid in it unless it becomes infected (such as middle ear infection or otitis media) or unless the Eustachian tube (a ventilation pathway that allows the equalization of pressure in the middle ear permitting free movement of the ear drum) gets blocked.

Often infection of upper-airway, nose, mouth, and sinus tissues will affect the Eustachian and interfere with the function of the middle ear. It’s often associated with some fluid accumulation behind the ear drum. This can be directly visualized by your doctor. This middle ear fluid also reduces your hearing.

Bath our ossicles in fluid is not good for these tiny bones, and this is the reason that tympanostomy tubes are inserted, usually in children. Hearing improves and the accumulated fluid has a way to drain out of the middle ear. The tubes also serve as a ventilation path for pressure equalization which prevents uncontrolled rupture of the eardrum.

The inner ear refers to fixed structures within our temporal bones: the labyrinth (which controls balance via semicircular canals and the vestibule), the cochlea for hearing, and the eighth cranial nerve. The inner ear cannot be visualized. The endolymph fluid within the semicircular canals contains no cartilage, so no cartilage can float around.

If you have questions, request a referral to an ear, nose, and throat specialist for consultation.



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