Spread of infection. Untreated infections or infections that don't respond well to treatment can spread to nearby tissues. Infection of the mastoid, the bony protrusion behind the ear, is called mastoiditis. This infection can result in damage to the bone and the formation of pus-filled cysts. Rarely, serious middle ear infections spread to other tissues in the skull, including the brain or the membranes surrounding the brain (meningitis).

Your ear has three main parts: outer, middle and inner. You use all of them in hearing. Sound waves come in through your outer ear. They reach your middle ear, where they make your eardrum vibrate. The vibrations are transmitted through three tiny bones, called ossicles, in your middle ear. The vibrations travel to your inner ear, a snail-shaped organ. The inner ear makes the nerve impulses that are sent to the brain. Your brain recognizes them as sounds. The inner ear also controls balance.


Conductive hearing loss results when there is any problem in delivering sound energy to your cochlea, the hearing part in the inner ear. Common reasons for conductive hearing loss include blockage of your ear canal, a hole in your ear drum, problems with three small bones in your ear, or fluid in the space between your ear drum and cochlea. Fortunately, most cases of conductive hearing loss can be improved.
Outer ear infection: otitis externa – usually affects adults aged 45 to 75. It affects the ear canal and is often caused by bacterial infection of the skin of the canal, or a fungus or a yeast. It can also be caused by an irritation such as wearing earplugs or a hearing aid. It is common in people who suffer from skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis but also in people who are keen swimmers.
Often interventions to prevent noise-induced hearing loss have many components. A 2017 Cochrane review found that stricter legislation might reduce noise levels.[97] Providing workers with information on their noise exposure levels was not shown to decrease exposure to noise. Ear protection, if used correctly, can reduce noise to safer levels, but often, providing them is not sufficient to prevent hearing loss. Engineering noise out and other solutions such as proper maintenance of equipment can lead to noise reduction, but further field studies on resulting noise exposures following such interventions are needed. Other possible solutions include improved enforcement of existing legislation and better implementation of well-designed prevention programmes, which have not yet been proven conclusively to be effective. The conclusion of the Cochrane Review was that further research could modify what is now regarding the effectiveness of the evaluated interventions.[97]
For basic screening, a conductive hearing loss can be identified using the Rinne test with a 256 Hz tuning fork. The Rinne test, in which a patient is asked to say whether a vibrating tuning fork is heard more loudly adjacent to the ear canal (air conduction) or touching the bone behind the ear (bone conduction), is negative indicating that bone conduction is more effective that air conduction. A normal, or positive, result, is when air conduction is more effective than bone conduction.
White noise machines. These devices, which produce simulated environmental sounds such as falling rain or ocean waves, are often an effective treatment for tinnitus. You may want to try a white noise machine with pillow speakers to help you sleep. Fans, humidifiers, dehumidifiers and air conditioners in the bedroom also may help cover the internal noise at night.
Other potential sources of the sounds normally associated with tinnitus should be ruled out. For instance, two recognized sources of high-pitched sounds might be electromagnetic fields common in modern wiring and various sound signal transmissions. A common and often misdiagnosed condition that mimics tinnitus is radio frequency (RF) hearing, in which subjects have been tested and found to hear high-pitched transmission frequencies that sound similar to tinnitus.[72][73]
Human hearing extends in frequency from 20 to 20,000 Hz, and in intensity from 0 dB to 120 dB HL or more. 0 dB does not represent absence of sound, but rather the softest sound an average unimpaired human ear can hear; some people can hear down to −5 or even −10 dB. Sound is generally uncomfortably loud above 90 dB and 115 dB represents the threshold of pain. The ear does not hear all frequencies equally well: hearing sensitivity peaks around 3000 Hz. There are many qualities of human hearing besides frequency range and intensity that cannot easily be measured quantitatively. However, for many practical purposes, normal hearing is defined by a frequency versus intensity graph, or audiogram, charting sensitivity thresholds of hearing at defined frequencies. Because of the cumulative impact of age and exposure to noise and other acoustic insults, 'typical' hearing may not be normal.[25][26]
Try the skull-thumping trick. If you're coming home from a concert or a club, and your ears won't stop ringing, it's because you've damaged some of the little hairs in your cochlea, which causes inflammation and stimulation of nerves. Your brain interprets this inflammation as constant ringing or buzzing, and this trick can help make that annoying sound go away.
Most hearing loss, that resulting from age and noise, is progressive and irreversible, and there are currently no approved or recommended treatments. A few specific kinds of hearing loss are amenable to surgical treatment. In other cases, treatment is addressed to underlying pathologies, but any hearing loss incurred may be permanent. Some management options include hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive technology, and closed captioning.[9] This choice depends on the level of hearing loss, type of hearing loss, and personal preference. Hearing aid applications are one of the options for hearing loss management.[82] For people with bilateral hearing loss, it is not clear if bilateral hearing aids (hearing aids in both ears) are better than a unilateral hearing aid (hearing aid in one ear).[9]
Try the skull-thumping trick. If you're coming home from a concert or a club, and your ears won't stop ringing, it's because you've damaged some of the little hairs in your cochlea, which causes inflammation and stimulation of nerves. Your brain interprets this inflammation as constant ringing or buzzing, and this trick can help make that annoying sound go away.
Noise exposure is the most significant risk factor for noise-induced hearing loss that can be prevented. Different programs exist for specific populations such as school-age children, adolescents and workers.[87] Education regarding noise exposure increases the use of hearing protectors.[88] The use of antioxidants is being studied for the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss, particularly for scenarios in which noise exposure cannot be reduced, such as during military operations.[89]

Besides research studies seeking to improve hearing, such as the ones listed above, research studies on the deaf have also been carried out in order to understand more about audition. Pijil and Shwarz (2005) conducted their study on the deaf who lost their hearing later in life and, hence, used cochlear implants to hear. They discovered further evidence for rate coding of pitch, a system that codes for information for frequencies by the rate that neurons fire in the auditory system, especially for lower frequencies as they are coded by the frequencies that neurons fire from the basilar membrane in a synchronous manner. Their results showed that the subjects could identify different pitches that were proportional to the frequency stimulated by a single electrode. The lower frequencies were detected when the basilar membrane was stimulated, providing even further evidence for rate coding.[130]
Prolonged exposure to loud sounds is the most common cause of tinnitus. Up to 90% of people with tinnitus have some level of noise-induced hearing loss. The noise causes permanent damage to the sound-sensitive cells of the cochlea, a spiral-shaped organ in the inner ear. Carpenters, pilots, rock musicians, street-repair workers, and landscapers are among those whose jobs put them at risk, as are people who work with chain saws, guns, or other loud devices or who repeatedly listen to loud music. A single exposure to a sudden extremely loud noise can also cause tinnitus.
3. A number of headset manufacturers produce “acoustic shock prevention” devices for their headsets to plug into. They are relatively primitive devices that simply attenuate (raise or lower volume of) incoming sound. This means that if a loud noise comes in the unit will suppress all sound that the headset wearer hears including the caller’s voice.
Since most persons with tinnitus also have hearing loss, a pure tone hearing test resulting in an audiogram may help diagnose a cause, though some persons with tinnitus do not have hearing loss. An audiogram may also facilitate fitting of a hearing aid in those cases where hearing loss is significant. The pitch of tinnitus is often in the range of the hearing loss.
Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT). This technique is based on the assumption that tinnitus results from abnormal neuronal activity (see "What's going on?"). The aim is to habituate the auditory system to the tinnitus signals, making them less noticeable or less bothersome. The main components of TRT are individual counseling (to explain the auditory system, how tinnitus develops, and how TRT can help) and sound therapy. A device is inserted in the ear to generate low-level noise and environmental sounds that match the pitch, volume, and quality of the patient's tinnitus. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, treatment may last one to two years.
Psychological research has focussed on the tinnitus distress reaction (TDR) to account for differences in tinnitus severity.[16][19][20][21] These findings suggest that among those people, conditioning at the initial perception of tinnitus, linked tinnitus with negative emotions, such as fear and anxiety from unpleasant stimuli at the time. This enhances activity in the limbic system and autonomic nervous system, thus increasing tinnitus awareness and annoyance.[22]
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