3 health problems that may impair your hearing

July 10, 2015

For simple medical issues that affect your hearing, a doctor can often provide effective treatment. Here are 3 health problems that may impair your hearing and the steps a doctor could take to address them.

3 health problems that may impair your hearing

1. Ear infections

In young children, ear infections are common, but most clear up within a few days without any specific treatment. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for a bacterial infection of the middle ear or for sinusitis. However, antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections – and your doctor can't always tell the difference.

If your doctor decides against antibiotics, they might advise you to take decongestants and will probably suggest that you take painkillers for earaches. Your hearing may be muffled for a week or so after an ear infection until any mucus left in the middle ear clears up. If you suffer from recurrent ear infections, fluid buildup or other complications, you may be referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.

2. Perforated eardrum

As long as you are careful to keep water out of the ear canal – which can cause infection – a perforated eardrum will usually heal within six to eight weeks. If fluid buildup behind the drum has caused the perforation, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics and will usually ask you to return for checkups to ensure the hole heals. If it doesn't, or if you have a large perforation, you may be referred for surgery to patch the drum.

3. Ménière’s disease

If your doctor suspects Ménière's disease, you will probably be referred for further tests, such as a head scan. The cause of Ménière's disease is still not fully understood, but symptoms of the disease are thought to be the result of a buildup of fluid in the inner ear. For this reason, some doctors may suggest that you follow a diet that is very low in salt or they may prescribe a diuretic to reduce fluid retention, although the overall effectiveness of such treatments remains unclear.

If the combination of diet and drugs is not a success, your doctor might refer you to an ENT surgeon to consider a variety of surgical options available to help control the attacks of vertigo. In addition, during periods of remission, any residual imbalance that you suffer may be reduced by a balance-retraining physiotherapist.

Be sure to tell your doctor about any over-the-counter medication you are taking, as this may influence your doctor’s approach to treatment.

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