You may have hearing loss, and not even be aware of it. People of all ages experience gradual hearing loss, often due to the natural aging process or long exposure to loud noise. Other causes of hearing loss include viruses or bacteria, heart conditions or stroke, head injuries, tumors, and certain medications. Treatment for hearing loss will depend on your diagnosis.
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Dizziness & Vertigo
Vertigo, or dizziness, is a symptom, not a disease. The term vertigo refers to the sensation of spinning or whirling that occurs as a result of a disturbance in balance (equilibrium). It also may be used to describe feelings of dizziness, lightheadedness, faintness, and unsteadiness.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 40% of people in the United States experience feeling dizzy at least once during their lifetime. Prevalence is slightly higher in women and increases with age.
Ear Infections & Earaches
Adult ear infection is caused by infection in the Eustachian tube, near the inner ear. The Eustachian tube connects the inner ear to the nasal passages in order to drain fluid from the ears and equalize pressure between outside and inside of the body, but when fluid or mucous builds up in the Eustachian tube, it is an easy target for infection.
There are many situations in which adult ear infection can surface. A cold can cause fluid build up and infection in the Eustachian tube. Post nasal drip may also contribute. An adult does not necessarily need to be sick to get adult ear infection. Often, the infection is caused by mucous being blown into the Eustachian tubes by blowing the nose or failing to clean the liquid out of the ear with a cotton swab after showering.
In one of every four cases in children, ear infection is not caused by a bacterial infection but by a viral infection. Viruses often cause adult ear infection as well. Viral infections are much more difficult to eliminate.
- Learn more about Why Do Children Have Earaches?
- Learn more about Ear Infections & Earaches
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- VIDEO: Dr. Fritz Butehorn explains Ear Infections and Ear Tubes
A hole or rupture in the eardrum, a thin membrane that separates the ear canal and the middle ear, is called a perforated eardrum. The medical term for eardrum is tympanic membrane. The middle ear is connected to the nose by the eustachian tube, which equalizes pressure in the middle ear.
A perforated eardrum is often accompanied by decreased hearing and occasional discharge. Pain is usually not persistent.
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Cerumen or earwax is healthy in normal amounts and serves as a self-cleaning agent with protective, lubricating, and antibacterial properties. The absence of earwax may result in dry, itchy ears. Most of the time the ear canals are self-cleaning; that is, there is a slow and orderly migration of earwax and skin cells from the eardrum to the ear opening. Old earwax is constantly being transported, assisted by chewing and jaw motion, from the ear canal to the ear opening where it usually dries, flakes, and falls out.
Earwax is not formed in the deep part of the ear canal near the eardrum, but in the outer one-third of the ear canal. So when a patient has wax blockage against the eardrum, it is often because he has been probing the ear with such things as cotton-tipped applicators, bobby pins, or twisted napkin corners. These objects only push the wax in deeper.
Tinnitus (Ringing in Ears)
Nearly 36 million Americans suffer from tinnitus or head noises. It may be an intermittent sound or an annoying continuous sound in one or both ears. Its pitch can go from a low roar to a high squeal or whine. Prior to any treatment, it is important to undergo a thorough examination and evaluation by your otolaryngologist.
Tonsils & Adenoids
Tonsils and adenoids are on the body’s first line of defense—our immune system. They “sample” bacteria and viruses that enter the body through the mouth or nose at the risk of their own infection. But at times, they become more of a liability than an asset and may even trigger airway obstruction or repeated bacterial infections.
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Abnormal changes in the voice are called “hoarseness.” When hoarse, the voice may sound breathy, raspy, strained, or show changes in volume or pitch (depending on how high or low the voice is). Voice changes are related to disorders in the sound-producing parts (vocal folds) of the voice box (larynx). While breathing, the vocal folds remain apart. When speaking or singing, they come together and, as air leaves the lungs, they vibrate, producing sound. Swelling or lumps on the vocal folds hinder vibration, altering voice quality, volume, and pitch.
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Difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia) is common among all age groups, especially the elderly. The term dysphagia refers to the feeling of difficulty passing food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach. This may be caused by many factors, most of which are temporary and not threatening. Difficulties in swallowing rarely represent a more serious disease, such as a tumor or a progressive neurological disorder.
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Infections from viruses or bacteria are the main cause of sore throats and can make it difficult to talk and breathe. Allergies and sinus infections can also contribute to a sore throat.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, occurs when acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus. Normally, food travels from the mouth, down through the esophagus and into the stomach. A ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), contracts to keep the acidic contents of the stomach from “refluxing” or coming back up into the esophagus. In those who have GERD, the LES does not close properly, allowing acid to move up the esophagus.
During gastroesophageal reflux, the acidic stomach contents may reflux all the way up the esophagus, beyond the upper esophageal sphincter (a ring of muscle at the top of the esophagus), and into the back of the throat and possibly the back of the nasal airway. This is known as laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), which can affect anyone. Adults with LPR often complain that the back of their throat has a bitter taste, a sensation of burning, or something “stuck.” Some may have difficulty breathing if the voice box is affected.
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Chronic cough — one lasting eight weeks or longer — is more than just an annoyance. In addition to being physically draining, a chronic cough can alienate your family and co-workers, ruin your sleep, and leave you feeling angry and frustrated. Chronic cough is one of the most common complaints that people bring to their health care providers.
While it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the problem that's triggering your chronic cough, the most common causes of chronic cough are postnasal drip, asthma and acid reflux — a frequent symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Chronic cough typically disappears once the underlying problem is treated.
- Learn more about Chronic Cough