The Ear, Hearing and Balance

Hearing Loss

  • "Doc, sitting with you now, I can hear you just fine. But if i'm in a noisy cafe, I can't hear anyone speak anymore! I often just have to sit there and pretend I can hear - I'm sick of asking people to repeat themselves, and I find it embarrassing!"

  • "My wife says I have the TV up too loud! But if I turn it down, I can't make out what anyone says!"

  • "Every night when I go to bed, I hear this ringing sound in my ear. Sometimes it stops me getting to sleep"

  • "My ears constantly feel blocked, even though my doctor has looked in and says it looks fine"

  • "I've had hearing loss for years, but these hearing aids aren't really working any more"

  • "Grandma used to be the life of the party at the dinner table. But now she seems to tune out, and doesn't seem to enjoy being around the family as much any more"

These are common stories from patients I hear every day. Hearing loss is extremely common, and is almost always very treatable. At its core, hearing loss prevents us not only from hearing the sounds around us, but isolates us from our friends and loved ones. It stops us from communicating with each other - the very thing that makes us human!

Research has shown many sobering statistics about hearing loss.

  • People who suffer from untreated hearing loss have a higher risk of developing dementia in later life

  • Elderly people with severe hearing loss have very poor quality of life outcomes, comparable to people with cancer or Parkinson's disease

Most people with hearing loss will not require surgery. Causes may range from buildup of wax, fluid behind the ear drum, age-related hearing loss or noise exposure at work. Very rarely hearing loss may be due to something more sinister, such as benign tumours of the hearing nerve.

We are here to help with all causes of hearing loss and are passionate about improving quality of life in all our patients with this condition.

 
Ear Pain, Infections and Discharge
  • "For the last week, my ear has been painful and i'm getting this mucky discharge coming out!"

  • "Every time i get my ear wet, I get an infection that lasts for weeks"

  • "My ear is always itchy, and i know i shouldn't, but i have to get a cotton bud in there and give it a good scratch!"

  • "My ear always feels wet, and I can hear it crackling and popping all the time"

  • "Whenever I fly, drive down a hill or dive underwater, I get pain and blockage in my ears"

  • "I've had pain deep in my ear for a long time - I just can't get it to settle down"

Infections in the ears are very common, both in children and adults, and especially in the water-loving country that is Australia. They can involve infection of the skin of the ear canal "external ear" or alternatively behind the ear drum, or "middle ear".

If you have had an ear infection lasting for longer than 1-2 weeks, or if it is causing severe pain, I would recommend seeing an ENT surgeon as soon as possible. We have access to specialised equipment to allow the infection to settle more rapidly, and prevent complications.

Sometimes ear pain is not coming from the ear itself, but rather what is around the ear, such as the jaw joint, neck muscles or pain may even come from the throat. (This is known as 'referred pain' - similar to when a someone having heart pains also gets pain in the arm and neck - and is due to the nerves of pain supplying all these areas).

For this reason it is important to have a full ENT examination for any ear pain that is not improving, and if necessary further tests, such as scans and hearing tests.

 
Loss of Balance
  • "Every so often, just out of the blue, my head start spinning, and I feel like I'm about to vomit"

  • "For a few days now, every time I lie down my head spins for a few seconds"

  • "I've had dizzy spells for years - its getting to the point I don't want to leave the house!"

  • "My ears feel blocked, start ringing and then I get dizzy for a few hours"

  • "My balance really isn't what it used to be"
     

Our sense of balance depends on many factors, including our eyesight, spinal and lower leg stability and strength, and also our ears, in particular the inner ear. The signals from all of these structures help our body tell where it is in space. Dysfunction of any of these areas can cause imbalance and can be very difficult to live with.

ENT surgeons can often help for a symptom called vertigo. This is the feeling that the world is 'spinning around you', and can be caused by dysfunction of the inner ear. There are many causes of vertigo, most of which are very treatable. We help by performing a set of examinations, and may arrange other tests such as scans, balance testing and hearing tests.

 
Copyright 2020 Dr Samuel McGinness