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Diseases and Disorders of the Outer Ear


 Problems of the Outer Ear and Ear Canal (Tympanic Canal)




Trauma to the Outer Ear and Eardrum (Perforated Eardrum)


Just about any object devised by man or nature has been pushed into the ear and caused damage to the eardrum. Depending on the size of the object, its sharpness, and depth of penetration, the trauma can range from mild and reparable, to serious damage to the ossicles in the middle ear, the inner ear, or even the brain itself. The latter depth often causing death. Needless to say, if any blood or whitish discharge (see BSF, below) occurs after an object is pushed into the ear, a trip to the emergency room is mandatory.


Basilar Skull Fracture (BSF)


A BSF cause is quite self-evident: A fall or blunt trauma to the side of the head may produce secondary symptoms and drainage out of the ear.  With a basilar skull fracture and outer ear discharge, a discharge from the ear (otorrhea) may be clear and watery. This is different than the whitish color of a discharge consistent with a fungal infection.  If the discharge is tested in the lab, and glucose is found, it means that the liquid surrounding the brain – cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is leaking through the aural (ear) system. If you have had a serious head accident in the past 2 weeks, this condition is extremely serious and life-threatening and you should go to the emergency room immediately.


Symptoms of a serious bsf may include a bloody discharge from a burst ear drum. If the ear drum has not yet been broken, blood may accumulate in the middle ear cavity and either put pressure on the ear drum or drain through the Eustachian tube into the throat. If you have had the head trauma and you are coughing up blood, immediately go to the emergency room.


Other serious BSF symptoms are: cranial nerve palsies (tremors and twitching of the facial muscles), passing out (unconsciousness), ear aches and headaches.


Otitis Externa (Outer Ear Infection)


Otitis externa occurs when the skin of the ear canal becomes inflamed. This may happen due to any of the following conditions:

The lining or the outer ear canal has been irritated by scratching or continual Q-tip (cotton bud) use

A skin condition such as eczema

A fungal infection is present

A bacterial infection is present

A viral infection is present


Otitis Externa is also associated with high humidity, warmer temperatures, swimming, local trauma, and hearing aid use or hearing protector use.