The ear is one of the most vital sensory organs of the human body. It comprises three major parts: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. The outer ear includes the pinna and ear canal. It is separated from the middle ear by an eardrum. The middle ear is an air-filled space present behind the eardrum. The inner ear consists of a system of canals and fluid-filled tube-like structures called labyrinth. There may be various problems associated with the inner ear, which can lead to problems in hearing and balance.
Symptoms of inner ear disorders may vary in severity from person to person, depending upon the underlying condition. Some of the general symptoms are dizziness, vomiting, nausea, pain, which is experienced as a blunt headache along the sides and temples and ringing in the ear (tinnitus).
❒ Vertigo: One of the most common symptom of inner ear disorder is vertigo. The sensation of whirling or spinning is called vertigo. People suffering from vertigo often have the feeling that, they, or the surroundings are moving.
❒ Hearing Changes: Loss of hearing is quite common in case of inner ear infections. Hearing loss may be partial or total. Some people also complain of distorted or fluctuating hearing. Ringing in the ear as well as other sounds such as popping, cracking, clicking or hissing sounds are also very common. Sensitivity to loud noise can also indicate that the person might be suffering from problems of the inner ear.
❒ Spatial Disorientation: Another very common symptom of inner ear problem is spatial disorientation and imbalance.
❒ Vision Problems: Some people suffering from problems of the inner ear experience disturbance in normal vision. Blurry or double vision with sensitivity to bright light is also a common problem. Some people may experience bouncing or jumping vision. Any visual stimulation may trigger dizziness. This happens because an inflammatory condition in the inner ear may put some amount of pressure on certain ocular nerves.
Some people also experience a lot of pressure and pain in the ears. There can also be headache, muscle and joint pain along the neck, and stiffness of the limbs along with a tingling sensation on the top of the head, arms, and legs. In rare cases, there may be some emotional or psychological problems such as anxiety and panic attacks. The person may feel depressed, tired and frustrated. He/she may lose interest in routine activities. These, however, are common psychological side effects of general ill-health.
Some symptoms of severe or chronic inner ear illness are motion sickness, confusion, forgetfulness, slurred speech, heat and cold intolerance, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms. Symptoms of inner ear problems can be debilitating, and because the symptoms are so varied, it is very often misdiagnosed.
Problems of The Inner Ear
An infection is one of the most common inner ear problems. Inner ear infections are also called otitis interna or labyrinthitis. Infection of the inner ear is generally caused due to viral infections such as cold, measles, flu or mumps. Some other inner ear problems are:
- Autoimmune inner ear disease
- Acoustic neuroma
- Ménière's disease
- Perilymph fistula
- Vestibular neuritis
- Migraine associated vertigo
- Silent seizures
These problems can be diagnosed on the basis of a hearing test, Electronystagmography (ENG), Electrocochleography (EcoG), Posturography or Platform test, the Rotary Chair test and imaging tests such as X-ray, CT scan and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan.
▶ If inner ear disorders is due to an infection, then medications are prescribed to control or manage the symptoms of the infection. In case the infection is due to a bacterial infection, antibiotics are prescribed to clear it up. For people who are suffering from vertigo due to inner ear disorders, vestibular therapy is often recommended, and is highly effective.
▶ For most inner ear problems, a sodium-restricted, caffeine-free diet is recommended. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and its intake makes the symptoms of inner ear disorder (especially headache and dizziness) appear more pronounced. Hence, it is advisable to reduce the intake of caffeine as much as possible till the condition is completely treated. Excess sugar in the diet also triggers dizziness.
▶ In case of Meniere's disease or endolymphatic hydrops, a low-salt diet is highly recommended. Certain medications such as benzodiazepine drugs are useful in treating inner ear problems. Some studies indicate that Botox injections are helpful in relieving the symptoms of tinnitus. However, more research and clinical trials are required.
The symptoms of inner ear disorders should never be ignored, as some conditions can lead to permanent hearing loss. It is best to consult an ENT specialist who will diagnose the condition and recommend necessary treatment.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.