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Common Middle Ear Problems


  • Hearing loss in 1 or both ears

  • Fluid, often smelly, draining from the ear

  • Pain, pressure, or discomfort in the ear

  • Ringing in the ear

Your middle ear may have been injured or infected recently. Over time, certain growths or bone disease can also harm the middle ear. Left untreated, middle ear problems often lead to lifelong hearing loss. There are 2 types of hearing loss: conductive and sensorineural. One or both kinds can occur. Injury, infection, certain growths, or bone disease can cause your symptoms. A ruptured eardrum or a chronic (long-lasting) ear infection may be painful and decrease hearing.

Conductive hearing loss

Cross section front view of outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Outer and middle ear are outlined. Inner ear is outlined. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves do not reach inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when sound waves are not processed correctly.

Sound waves may be disrupted before they reach the inner ear. If this happens, conductive hearing loss may occur. The ear canal can be blocked by wax, infection, a tumor, or a foreign object. The eardrum can be injured or infected. Abnormal bone growth, infection, or tumors in the middle ear can block sound waves.


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