4 Most Common Traumatic Ear Injuries
My time as an audiologist has given me hands-on experience working with patients with dozens of ear injuries. Many of the most common injuries happen during summer activities. To keep you safe this summer, I want to make you aware of the top four traumatic ear injuries I have seen in my office. One as recently as today.
1. Barotrauma Caused by Diving
Do you know someone who went diving and failed to equalize their middle ear pressure prior to descent? As the outside pressure of the water increases, the pressure within the ear canal rises while the middle ear space decreases, creating a vacuum. To equalize the pressure in the middle ear, the tube that connects the middle ear and throat must open. You have probably experienced this pressure to some degree if you have ever swum to the bottom of a deep pool. If the pressure is not equalized, it can cause ear damage or sometimes life-long hearing loss. Another example is when you fly in an airplane. If the pressure can not be equalized by “popping” the middle ear and opening your eustachian tube then it may result in pain or leave you with a feeling of fullness.
2. Ruptured Eardrum Caused by Infection
Ruptured eardrums are probably one of the most common traumatic ear injuries I see in our clinic. The pressure from the fluid buildup behind the eardrum can cause the tympanic membrane to rupture. This rupture is called a perforation. Surprisingly, children will not always tell you about their ear infections until the infection has had time to build up a significant amount of pressure and cause a rupture.
3. Ruptured Eardrum Because of Q Tip Use
Most patients doubt the damage a Q Tip can cause. They don’t understand how someone can push a Q Tip in far enough to injure the ear. What more typically happens is that someone frightens or bumps them, causing the Q Tip to slide deeper than they had wanted. Never put anything other than your elbow in your ear! A Q Tip, no matter how you use it in your ear canal, will only push the wax in deeper. There is no way to hook the wax and remove it!
4. Cochlear Concussion
This injury is caused by exposure to a blast or loud noise and it causes permanent hearing loss. One of the first things I remember learning during my internship was that the structure in our inner ear, our cochlea, can experience a concussion. My patient was a teenager who had gone tubing behind a boat. He had hit the water with the side of his head and noticed a decrease in hearing he believed was because of trapped water in the ear. However, after a hearing evaluation, he was diagnosed with a labyrinthine concussion. The injury caused no fractures or lacerations; the blunt force caused trauma only to his temporal region.
In cases when a concussion is suspected, always call 911. Your second prerogative should be to get in with us at Inman Audiology for a hearing test if you suspect ear trauma. After a thorough examination, we can refer you for an immediate appointment if needed! Whenever we are dealing with our ears, sooner is always better because our treatment windows are small!