The middle ear consists of the tympanic membrane (eardrum), and an air filled chamber containing a chain of three bones (ossicles). The middle ear acts an amplifier of sound, whereas the inner ear (cochlea) acts as a transducer of sound, changing mechanical sound waves into an electrical signal that is then sent to the brain via the statoacoustic nerve (auditory nerve). A functioning middle ear system is essential to ensuring efficiency of the general hearing process.
Diagnosis of middle-ear pathologies:
Diagnosis of middle ear pathologies is usually done by an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT), a general practitioner, or an audiologist. In most instances, you will be required to undertake a hearing assessment to assess the level of hearing loss (if any), and tympanometry, which is an objective measurement of ear drum mobility, middle ear pressure, and middle ear volume, and will provide very useful information in helping differentially diagnose the specific type of middle ear pathology.
Most middle ear pathologies are treatable, with the associated hearing loss (if any) recoverable back to pre-hearing loss levels, however this is not the case for all middle ear afflictions. You will need to consult with your ENT or GP as to the most suitable course of treatment for your specific middle ear issue.
Mild cases of otitis media may be treatable with paracetamol, however you should always seek advice from your GP before beginning this course of action. More severe cases of otitis media may necessitate antibiotic treatment or surgery to insert pressure releasing tubes into the eardrum.
Other middle ear pathologies such as otosclerosis, a cholesteatoma, or an ossicular chain dislocation may require more in-depth surgeries to prevent further deterioration of hearing. Not all middle ear pathologies require medical intervention, and the fitting of a pair of hearing aids may be recommended on the advice of an ENT.
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