Common Conditions of the External Ear

As we age, the external ear begins to lose its elasticity and becomes less flexible than it once was. This can cause various conditions of the external ear, some of which are more of a nuisance, while others can be quite painful. In some cases, medical intervention may be required.

We’re exploring 4 common conditions of the external ear. 

Common Conditions of the External Ear

Our external ear plays an important role in our hearing. On a day-to-day basis, you may not even really think about your external ear. However, if you’ve had an infection in your external ear, you certainly know about it then!

Below are some common conditions of the external ear:

Acute Otitis Externa

Acute otitis externa, or “swimmer’s ear,” is a common condition of the external ear canal. It most often develops during water exposure but can also happen after bathing or showering.

What should you do if you suspect that you have acute otitis externa?

First, discontinue any activities that may aggravate your symptoms (including swimming) and call your doctor for further advice. If you do not get treatment for this condition immediately and continue with swimming, there is a risk of developing complications such as abscesses and cellulitis (inflammation around the skin).

Swimmer’s ear can be treated with antibiotics, but prevention is key! To prevent the swimmer’s ear, try wearing earplugs or a water-resistant headband to keep hair out of your ears while swimming.

If you have an existing case of swimmer’s ear or just want extra protection from getting one again, consider using disposable foam earplugs instead if you’re worried about reinfection after treatment has cleared up your symptoms.

Chronic Otitis Externa

Chronic otitis externa is a common condition that affects the external ear canal. It causes inflammation and swelling of the skin, which can lead to pain when you touch it.

Chronic otitis externa is caused by repeated irritation or scratching of the outer ear canal, often because of wax buildup, and re-infection by bacteria or fungi. Some people are more likely than others to develop chronic otitis externa because they have:

  • A weakened immune system due to age or other health conditions;
  • Skin disorders such as eczema (atopic dermatitis) or psoriasis;
  • An allergy or sensitivity to something in their environment.

Asteatotic Eczema

Asteatotic eczema is a condition that causes itchiness, dryness, and scaly skin. It can affect the entire ear or just part of it. The main symptom of this condition is a red rash that develops on the external ear canal skin, which may be accompanied by some itching or burning sensations.

The cause of asteatotic eczema is unknown, but it may be triggered by several factors, including:

  • Dry air (from air conditioning)
  • Wearing hats or headbands that press against the ears for long periods
  • Using hair products such as gels and mousses on your scalp

Ear tumors

An ear tumor is a lump on the outside of the ear. This tumor is usually slow growing and painless in adults but can cause hearing loss if left untreated. Other symptoms include headaches, dizziness, and nausea. The most common type of external ear tumor is squamous cell carcinoma which forms on top layers of skin cells in this area, but other types may also occur.

If you think you have an ear tumor, get medical care right away. If the tumor is large and causing symptoms, your doctor may need to remove it surgically.

Trust the Experts at Hearing Services of Delaware

Hearing loss could be a potential symptom of many of these conditions of the external ear. If you are experiencing changes to your hearing, please don’t delay getting in touch with your local hearing specialists. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of certified hearing care professionals at Hearing Services of Delaware.

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