Hearing problems can present themselves in many ways. Individual symptoms can indicate specific problems, however, when there is more than one symptom this gives us more information to make an accurate diagnosis. Matching your symptoms with the cause is the key to finding effective care. This page provides information on some of the more common ear disorders and their symptoms.
Hearing loss can be classed as the reduction in the brain’s ability to perceive sound. The reason for the loss is likely to be caused by complications of the outer, middle, or inner ear, the nerve of hearing, or the brain.
To diagnose which factor or factors are affecting hearing a battery of tests, medical questionnaires and physical examination of the ear must be completed. The most popular method of testing hearing is pure tone audiometry this test determines the quietest sound a person can hear at varying frequencies, with the results plotted on an audiogram. This allows an audiologist to detect if there is a hearing loss, at what frequencies, the type of hearing loss and to what degree.
Conductive hearing loss affects the outer and middle ear, sound can be stopped from reaching the inner ear. Often caused by excessive ear wax, foreign bodies, fluid (common in children), infections, or bone disorders of the middle ear.
Sensorineural loss is when there is a complication with the cochlea (inner ear), meaning that the kinetic energy of the sound wave is not able to be converted into an electric signal, required to stimulate the nerve/brain. This commonly affects the elderly but is not exclusive to ageing, factors such as genetics, certain medication and exposure to excessive noise are also large risk factors.
The auditory nerve which connects the inner ear to the brain can be affected by head trauma and tumours (acoustic neuroma). It is also possible that the brain’s ability to process sound can be affected by events such as a stroke, infection or degenerative diseases.
Tinnitus can be a range of sounds heard by a person which has no physical sound origin from the outside world. Common causes of tinnitus are disorders of the cochlea, auditory nerve and brain, these types of disorders can lead to ringing, roaring, white noise and sometimes music sounds being perceived.
If tinnitus is pulsatile or sounds like a heartbeat, this can be a result of turbulent blood flow in the head region and can sometimes be heard by others as well as the person. Pulsatile tinnitus, as well as single-sided tinnitus, are referable conditions for a patient should seek medical advice from their GP as a matter of importance. That is because the cause of tinnitus can be an indicator of other underlying conditions such as high blood pressure, abnormalities of blood vessels, blood clots and tumours.
Clicking tinnitus is caused by the muscles in the ear contracting, it can occur after a trauma or be brought on by stress, stroke and rare forms of tumours. It is often said to sound like the clicking of a keyboard.
When a person’s tinnitus is loud enough it can mask the speech they are trying to listen to, this can not only cause hearing problems but also distress. If your tinnitus is affecting your day-to-day quality of life you should contact your GP for support or you can make an appointment at Kensington Hearing to discuss it with an audiologist.
There are many fantastic tinnitus charities you can reach out to for counselling or support.
Vertigo often used to describe feelings of dizziness is sometimes mistaken for lightheadedness, however, there is often a different cause between the two. The symptoms of vertigo are described as the feeling of motion whilst holding still this sensation is caused by the balance system in the inner ear. It is frequently mistaken for the feeling of imbalance or lightheadedness which can be caused by other underlying health issues like low blood sugar, circulation issues, drugs as well as others.
The most effective way to tell if you are experiencing vertigo is the length of time the symptoms last, episodes lasting between 5 – 10 seconds in bursts with relation to head movement could be Benign Positional Vertigo, which is caused by calcium crystals detaching and moving in the inner ear.
Vertigo lasting longer than 1 to 2 days that subsides over 1 to 2 weeks is usually associated with Vestibular Neuritis.
Vertigo that is intense and episodic in nature, with attacks ranging from 2 minutes to a few hours and is accompanied by symptoms such as hearing loss, ear pressure and tinnitus could be a sign of Ménière’s disease.
Feelings of fullness in the ear are a common problem, it can affect hearing or just be a sensation. It is often a simple build-up of ear wax in the canal that creates a barrier for sound to reach the ear drum. Less common causes are fluid or pressure in the middle ear. A visual examination using an otoscope will help determine what is the cause.
Make an appointment to solve your hearing problem. One of our audiologists can fully explore your ear fullness and if earwax is present remove it.
Pain in your ear is usually a sign of infection and/or inflammation. If you have discharge from your ear canal this could be a sign of infection. If your ear canal appears healthy but yellow fluid can be seen behind the eardrum this indicates you may have an infection of the middle ear.
Other causes of pain may not be related to the ear itself but present in such a way that we mistake it for ear pain, this usually occurs when the pain radiates from near to the ear, this is called referred pain, common areas of referred pain are the temporomandibular joint or the throat.
Hearing Your Own Voice
Hearing your voice inside your head can sound like speaking underwater, this is caused by the occlusion effect, which makes your voice sound louder in the ear that is occluded. These occlusions are most commonly caused by excessive ear wax build-up or middle ear disorders such as fluid behind the ear drum or an imbalance of middle ear pressure. This phenomenon can also be called Autophonia.