Diseases of the ear

Diseases of the ear are expressed in most cases either in pain in the ear or in hearing disorders. The causes are many. Below is an overview and brief explanation of the most important diseases of the ear.

Here are the most common diseases of the ear, sorted by:

  1. Diseases of the external ear
  2. Diseases of the middle ear
  3. Diseases of the inner ear

Anatomical classification of the ear

The ear is anatomically divided into three sections.

  • Outer ear: from the auricle to the eardrum, contains the ear canal
  • Middle ear: contains the tympanic cavity with the auditory ossicles
  • Inner ear: contains the balance organ and the labyrinth

Diseases of the external ear


Earache is one of the most common symptoms in ENT. For example, they can be caused by a middle ear infection or an ear canal inflammation. Nerve irritation can also cause earache. An ENT doctor can find out the cause of earache and initiate appropriate therapy.

Torn earlobe

A torn earlobe is usually a harmless small injury. This can either be traumatic or due to other diseases that cause dry skin. A torn earlobe heals again without therapy. However, if it happens more frequently, an underlying condition should be considered and a doctor should be consulted.

Inflammation of the earlobes

An inflammation of the earlobes is usually harmless and heals on its own. A common cause is a contact allergy to components of costume jewelery such as nickel. It may also be that an injury to the earlobe causes germs to enter and cause inflammation of the earlobe.

Inflammation of an ear hole

Inflammation of an ear hole most often occurs shortly after piercing the ear hole. Due to the small injury, it is possible that pathogens penetrate into the wound and cause inflammation here. Therefore, it is essential to pay attention to hygiene after the sting and to regularly disinfect the new ear hole.

Inflammation of the ear

In an inflammation of the ear can be distinguished between an inflammation of the outer ear and the ear canal and a middle ear infection. All forms cause severe earache. The exact cause and localization of the inflammation can be determined by an ENT specialist and the appropriate therapy initiated.

Swelling behind the ear

Especially with a cold, it often leads to lymphadenopathy, even behind the ear. This is harmless and will go away by itself after a few days. Another cause of swelling behind the ear is the so-called atheroma, a blocked sebaceous gland.

cauliflower ear

The term "ring ear" means an effusion between the ear cartilage and the cartilaginous skin. This effusion is usually caused by an external force, such as wrestling. It is very important to relieve the effusion with a small incision as this can lead to an inflammation of the cartilage or a deformation of the ear.


Mastoiditis is an inflammation of the mastoid of the cranial bone. The symptoms of mastoiditis are earache, a painful swelling behind the ear and a reduced general condition. Since serious complications can occur, therapy in the hospital is essential. Here, an antibiotic therapy is initiated via the vein and, in the case of extensive findings, possibly a surgical intervention is performed.

Zoster oticus

The Zoster oticus is an infestation of the seventh and / or eighth cranial nerve with the varicella-zoster virus. Since these nerves supply the area of ​​the ear sensitively, it comes to the typical painful bubbles on the auricle and in the external auditory canal. In addition, the patients have fever and a poor general condition. Antiviral drugs are given as part of inpatient therapy to avoid complications such as hearing loss.

Foreign body in the ear

Foreign bodies in the ear are common in children. They are not dangerous, but should be removed. This can either be tried carefully with tweezers at home. However, if the foreign body has slipped deeper into the ear, it is advisable to see a doctor and have the foreign body removed professionally.

Diseases of the middle ear


This is an acute inflammation of the middle ear. Especially children are affected by a middle ear infection. It first expresses itself with a dull feeling of pressure and tension. Within a few hours, sharp pains on the affected ear are the result, which are caused by secretion congestion and inflammatory reactions in the middle ear. The treatment of otitis media is both symptomatic and causal. First, the pain in the ear should be treated with analgesics. In addition, the ENT specialist prescribes decongestant nasal drops to facilitate drainage of the secretion in the ear. The definitive therapy often requires the use of antibiotics.


A tympanic effusion describes a fluid accumulation in the tympanic cavity. This arises especially in children often by an enlargement of the pharyngeal tonsils. In adults, a tympanic effusion is also produced as part of a tumor in the nasopharynx. Symptomatically, the effusion is expressed by a feeling of pressure in the ear and a hearing loss. In children, it usually helps to remove the enlarged pharyngeal tonsils. In adults, a precise cause search is important to rule out a possibly malignant genesis.


In cholesteatoma, there was a cell degeneration from the outer ear to the middle ear before birth. The cells begin to grow during the course of life and move the ear canal. It can result in pain and hearing loss. The cholesteatoma can be diagnosed by CT or MRI and treated by surgery. Most often, this operation is performed through the outer ear of the patient.

Ripped eardrum

The eardrum is a thin cuticle that lies between the outer ear and the middle ear. Reasons for a tear are excessive pressure fluctuations, such as diving or flying. The symptoms of a tympanic rupture are a strong, stabbing pain with subsequent hearing loss. Smaller cracks heal by themselves again. For larger defects, the hole can be spliced ​​with a silicone film. Pain or antibiotics are used for severe pain or inflammation.

Diseases of the inner ear

Sudden Hearing Loss

A sudden loss of hearing is referred to in ENT as a reduction or loss of hearing on one ear with no apparent cause. It is a sudden phenomenon that usually occurs from total discomfort. The risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, smoking and, above all, stress. The therapy of the hearing loss usually consists in the administration of high-dose cortisone preparations. Other approaches include the administration of vitamin C or oxygen.

Circulatory disorder of the ear

The causes of a circulatory disorder of the ear are the same as in other parts of the body. Pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension affect not only the large vessels, but also the vessels in the ear. The symptoms are often ear noises or hearing loss. When the organ of balance is affected, dizziness attacks can occur.

Meniere's disease

Meniere's disease is a disease of the inner ear, which leads to increased fluid retention in the inner ear. The typical symptoms are tinnitus, unilateral hearing loss and a vertigo. Since the exact cause of the disease is not yet sufficiently clarified, the therapy is difficult. Generally, a healthy lifestyle and a reduction of stress, alcohol and nicotine consumption is recommended.

hardness of hearing

The deafness is divided into sound conduction (cause in the middle ear) or sound sense deafness (cause in the inner ear or Hörnerv). Deafness is examined by audiometry. Here, the currently audible tone threshold is determined for different frequencies. Further diagnostics for the cause research follows. With age, some hearing loss is normal and is referred to as presbyacusis.

Tinnitus / ear noises

Tinnitus refers to the presence of persistent ear noises, which are not audible from the outside and arise in the ear or the hearing organ. They are often very stressful for those affected and can express themselves as whistles, beeps or hum. Nothing is known about the causes. However, factors such as stress and overwork play a role. Therapeutic circulation-enhancing drugs and cortisone are used, among which one hopes for an improvement of the symptoms. The prognosis is that tinnitus heals on its own in a large proportion of those affected.

Anatomy of the ear

Figure hearing and balance organs

A - outer ear - Auris externa
B - middle ear - Auris media
C - inner ear - Auris interna

  1. Ear Hook - Helix
  2. Counter ledge - Antihelix
  3. Pinna - Auricula
  4. Ohrecke - tragus
  5. Earlobes -
    Lobulus auriculae
  6. Outer ear canal -
    Meatus acusticus externus
  7. Temporal bone - Os temporale
  8. Eardrum -
    Membrana tympanica
  9. Stirrup - stapes
  10. Eustachian tube (Tube) -
    Tuba auditiva
  11. Snail - cochlea
  12. Auditory nerve - cochlear nerve
  13. Balance nerve -
    Nervus vestibularis
  14. Internal auditory canal -
    Meatus acusticus internus
  15. Extension (ampoule)
    of the rear semicircular canal -
    Ampulla membranacea posterior
  16. Archway -
    Ductus semicircuralis
  17. Anvil - incus
  18. Hammer - Malleus
  19. Timpani Cave -
    Cavitas tympani

Explaining middle ear disease (February 2020).

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