Entsa of Appleton
Entsa of Appleton

Earwax Removal, Ear Infections, Ear Tubes, Tinnitus, and Swimmer's Ear

Your ear is a complex organ that enables you to connect with your surroundings. If a problem arises with any part of the ear, you may become disconnected. Fortunately, the staff at Ear, Nose and Throat Surgical Associates, in Appleton, is experienced at treating any disorder or condition that walks in the door.

If you are experiencing any ear pain or discomfort, contact us at (920) 734-7181 to schedule an appointment.

Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a natural part of your body’s defense system. It is produced by the glands within your ear canal and is able to clean and lubricate your ear while protecting the ear canal from dirt and bacteria. Normally, earwax is produced, dries up and falls out of the ear without you ever noticing. A problem arises if earwax begins to build up and does not naturally fall out of the ear.

A blockage or impaction of earwax can be caused by a few factors. Smaller or misshapen ear canals can make it more difficult for the earwax to be removed naturally. Use of a hearing aid or earplugs can increase your chance of an earwax blockage. The most common cause of impacted earwax is the use of a cotton swab. Using a cotton swab to clean your ear actually pushes the earwax deeper into the ear canal. Over time, this will create a blockage.

Common signs of impacted earwax are a decrease in hearing, dizziness, ear pain and itching within the ear. These symptoms can be caused by a number of other conditions; in order to rule out a more serious condition you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. In order to confirm the cause of these symptoms your doctor will use an otoscope to get a better look inside your ear.

To remove the earwax your doctor will use the suction method and a curette. An aural speculum will be placed into the ear canal to help asses the earwax. A curette, a scoop-shaped instrument, will then be used to break up the wax and remove it from the walls of the ear canal. Suction will be used remove pieces of wax throughout the process. To ensure all the earwax has been removed, a microscope will be used to examine the ear canal.

Over-the-counter wax softeners are available for individuals who continue to experience a buildup of earwax. Eliminating your use of cotton swabs to clean your ears is the best way to prevent a blockage of earwax in the future.

An ear infection, known as acute otitis media, is caused by a bacterial or viral infection of the middle ear. Typically, ear infections are caused by another illness already present in your body, such as a cold or the flu. This illness will cause congestion and swelling, making it easier for the bacteria or virus to get trapped within the middle ear.

Those with an ear infection will experience ear pain, drainage from the ear and diminished hearing. Children may also experience a fever greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, headache, loss of balance and loss of appetite.

Ear infections are common in young children because of the placement of their Eustachian tubes and their adenoids. Eustachian tubes are responsible for the regulation of pressure within the middle ear. They connect your middle ear with the back of your throat and if they become inflamed, usually due to an upper respiratory infection, fluid will build up within the middle ear.

The Eustachian tubes often become blocked in children because they are narrow and sit horizontally.

Adenoids are pads of tissue that sit in the back of the throat, right by the opening of the Eustachian tubes. They are part of your body’s defense system, filtering out germs before they can enter your body. Because of this, your adenoids can easily become infected. An infection will cause them to become inflamed, which can actually block the opening of the Eustachian tube and lead to a buildup of fluid within the middle ear.

In order to diagnose an ear infection, your doctor will review your symptoms and complete a physical exam. A lighted instrument called an otoscope will be used to get a better look inside your ears. A pneumatic otoscope may be used to see if there is fluid in the middle ear. This instrument pushes a puff of air into the ear canal and the movement of your eardrum is measured. If the eardrum does not move there is fluid within the middle ear.

Once an ear infection has been diagnosed, your doctor will discuss your various treatment options. The wait-and-see approach is the most popular option. It is exactly what it sounds like; you will monitor your symptoms for a few days to see if they go away on their own. During this treatment you can manage any ear pain with over-the-counter pain medication or with a warm compress placed on the ear.

If your ear infection symptoms do not subside antibiotics will be prescribed. It is important to remember that even though your symptoms may go away, you have to take the entire round of antibiotics. Children that get frequent ear infections may be good candidates for ear tubes. These are placed in the ear with a simple surgery and help regulate the drainage of the middle ear.

If you or your child is experiencing the symptoms of an ear infection, contact our office at (920) 734-7181 to schedule an appointment today!

Ear Tubes are usually recommended for children who experience frequent ear infections or fluid buildup within the middle ear. While sporadic ear infections can resolve on their own or with the help of antibiotics, if they become a recurrent problem it can lead to hearing loss, poor behavior in school and speech problems.

Ear tubes are able to help regulate the airflow within the middle ear, reducing the buildup of fluid and frequency of ear infections.

An outpatient surgical procedure called a myringoplasty creates a hole in the eardrum. The ear tubes are then placed in the hole to keep it from closing and any fluid within the middle ear is suctioned out. Ear tubes are small, hollow cylinders that can be made out of a variety of materials and can be designed for either short-term or long-term use. Short-term tubes are smaller and typically only stay in the ears for six to eighteen months before falling out on their own. Long-term tubes are larger and are made to stay in place for a longer period of time. These tubes may fall out on their own or may require a quick surgical procedure to remove them.

Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing sounds that are not there. Normally, a soundwave will be converted into a vibration that is then passed through the ear. When the vibration enters the inner ear it will cause the tiny hairs that line the cochlea to move; this movement creates an electric signal. This signal is passed through the auditory nerve to the brain where it is interpreted as sound. If there has been damage to the hairs within the inner ear they can begin to randomly send electrical impulses to the brain. The brain will then interpret these signals as sound, even though no sound is present.

Hearing sounds that are not present is not an actual condition, but is a symptom of something else.

Tinnitus can sound different to everyone. The most common sounds are a ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking or hissing. These sounds may also vary in volume.

There are two kinds of tinnitus: subjective and objective. Subjective tinnitus is the most common type. This type of tinnitus produces sounds that only you can hear. Objective tinnitus can be heard by your doctor when completing an evaluation. This type is quite rare and usually caused by a blood vessel problem, a middle ear bone condition or muscle obstruction.

Along with the phantom noises, tinnitus can affect your quality of life. Those with tinnitus may experience fatigue, stress, sleep problems, memory problems, depression, anxiety and trouble concentrating.

The most common causes of tinnitus are age-related hearing loss and exposure to loud noises. Both can cause damage to the hairs within the inner ear. Earwax blockage can lead to temporary bouts of tinnitus; once the wax is removed the symptoms usually go away. Many medications list tinnitus as a possible side effect; the most common offenders are antibiotics, cancer medications and water pills.

In order to diagnose tinnitus your doctor will review your medical history and perform a physical exam. Since most suffer from subjective tinnitus your doctor must rely on your explanation of symptoms since they cannot hear the tones.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for tinnitus. The treatment options focus on improving your quality of life and helping the sounds become less bothersome. A white noise machine is able to help drown out the tinnitus; this is especially helpful when trying to fall asleep. A hearing aid can be utilized to make other sounds louder, drowning out the tinnitus. A masking device is worn like a hearing aid and generates a continuous low-level sound to help suppress the tinnitus.

If you are taking a medication that lists tinnitus as a side effect your doctor may try switching you to a different medication.

If you are experiencing tinnitus, contact us at (920) 734-7181. We can help improve your quality of life.

Swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa, is an infection in the outer ear canal usually caused by swimming in bacteria-filled water. If the thin layer of skin that lines your ear canal is damaged, bacteria can become trapped in the grooves. Once there, the bacteria will grow and cause an infection.

Placing objects in your ear, such as cotton swabs, can cause damage to the lining of your ear canal. Bacteria can become trapped in the scratches and once there, the bacteria will grow and cause an infection.

The symptoms of swimmer’s ear start out mild, but if left untreated will become worse. Typically, symptoms start with an itchy, red ear with some drainage of clear, odorless fluid. If the infection is not treated the symptoms can progress to a discharge of pus, a feeling of fullness in the ear and severe pain that may radiate throughout your face.

In order to diagnose swimmer’s ear your doctor will review your symptoms and examine your ear with an otoscope. Eardrops will be prescribed to treat the infection and reduce inflammation. Over-the-counter pain medications will be recommended to control any ear pain.

Once your swimmer’s ear has been treated, there are ways to prevent developing this infection in the future. Avoid placing objects into your ear canal, including cotton swabs and fingers, as they can damage the lining of your ear canal. Stay out of the water if there are alerts of high levels of bacteria. Use earplugs when swimming to prevent water from entering the ear.