There are two main types of deafness; sensorineural deafness and conductive deafness. The first is caused by damage to sensory part of the ear or the auditory nerve. The second is caused by blockage of the sound waves between the source of the sound and the sensory part of the ear.
Examples of sensorineural deafness include loss of with hearing with age (presbyacusis). Also in this group are noise-induced hearing loss and Meniérès disease. These are mostly irreversible. Examples of conductive hearing loss include accumulation and impaction of ear wax. Also surfers' ear and a foreign object stuck inside the ear canal, like a pea. A perforated tympanic membrane is another cause.
Conductive causes of hearing loss are, on the whole, reversible. Wax and foreign bodies can be removed. Surfers' ear can be operated on with excess bone being removed and perforated ear drums heal. They are also mostly avoidable by looking after your ears and wearing ear plugs to protect you from cold water whilst surfing and sea swimming. Ear plugs are also excellent at preventing noise induced hearing loss so are able to prevent several causes of hearing loss. Antibacterial varieties like ZenPlugs are ideal as they will protect against ear infections and otitis also. Swimmers' ear is a commonly experienced disorder causing ear pain and discomfort.
CAUSES OF A PERFORATED EAR DRUM
A perforated ear drum is also known as a ruptured tympanic membrane. It is a common problem and if you haven't had one one yourself you probably know someone who has. There are many causes; here are a few.
- Ear infections. This is a common problem which particularly affects children. The Eustachian Tube becomes blocked with inflammation and/or mucus, resulting in no ventilation of the middle ear space. The air in the space is absorbed and replaced with fluid; this situation is known as glue ear. The fluid may become infected; otitis media or middle ear infection. The pus increases in volume, stretching and bursting the membrane.
- Barotrauma. Pressure from air or water can tear the membrane if it can't push back hard enough. This category includes rupture from scuba diving, descent in an aeroplane, bomb blasts and close proximity truck tyre bursts.
- Trauma. A thin pointed stick forcibly pushed down the ear canal will tear the membrane.
- Surgical. A hole may be made in the membrane deliberately by a surgeon in order to ventilate the middle ear. This kills many types of bacteria, preventing recurrent middle ear infection. A grommet is likely to be used to hold the hole open and stop it healing.