What are some of the most common problems affecting the ears?


The ear is an important organ for hearing and balancing. It is divided into three parts namely the outer ear (external ear and the ear canal), middle ear (consisting of bones that transmit sound waves and the eustachian tube which links middle ear to the nose) and inner ear (consists of nerves and receptors for hearing and balancing). In this article, we will look at the common problems affecting the ears. Meet your doctor if you are experiencing any of the problems mentioned below.

Earwax build up

Earwax usually falls on its own. However, certain people tend to produce excessive ear wax. Removal of the ear wax using cotton swabs or cleaner tools might also push the ear wax further into the ear canal causing a blockage.

An earwax blockage might lead to reduced hearing or temporary hearing loss, feeling fullness in the ear, ringing in the ear or ear ache.

It is important to treat the condition as ear wax build up might increase the risk of ear infection. A blocking earwax may be removed by using an instrument that has a loop at the tip known as curet or suction performed by your doctor. An ear irrigation is another way to remove ear wax. It is an ear cleansing method in which flow of water will be targeted at the ear wax to soften and remove it. As ear wax buildup is a recurring problem, eardrop can be used for a short period of time to soften your ear wax and allow it to fall on its own.

Otitis externa (commonly known as swimmer’s ear)

Otitis externa is the inflammation of the outer area of the ear, which involves the ear canal before the eardrum to the external ear. It is also known as swimmer’s ear as the moist environment in the ear is conducive for bacterial growth.

Otitis externa might be present with symptoms such as itchiness, pain, hearing loss, ear fullness, discharge from the ear, ringing in the ear and fever.

In order to treat this condition, you will have to avoid the trigger that is causing it. Your doctor will then clean your ear canal, removing the extra wax or fluid accumulated in your ear canal. You will be prescribed an ear drop containing antibiotic or antifungal properties depending on your cause of infection. You may also get painkillers to relieve the pain.

Otitis media (middle ear infection)

Otitis media is the inflammation of the middle ear which involves the space behind the eardrum. It is a common disease which usually affects children. As the ear, nose and throat are connected structures, any infection in the nose and throat might increase the risk of middle ear infection.

Common symptoms are usually fever, ear pain, ear discharge and headache. Inflammation might also lead to fluid build-up in the middle ear causing hearing loss and ear ‘fullness’.

Treatment of otitis media will start with adequate analgesic. Otitis media usually recover spontaneously, but in some cases with antibiotics required in certain groups of patients.

Perforated eardrum

A perforated eardrum can result from trauma, procedure or infection of the middle ear. The typical symptoms of a ruptured eardrum is hearing loss. Depending on the causes, it might be associated with symptoms such as earache, discharge from the ear, ringing in the ear and spinning dizziness (vertigo)

A perforated eardrum will heal in a few weeks without treatment. However, surgical repair might be needed if it does not.


Hearing loss, balancing problem, ear ache, ear discharge, ringing in the ears, and spinning sensation are common symptoms which suggest an ear problem. Consult your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms suggestive of an ear problem.

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