The inner ear can be prone to the development of a number of conditions that can be painful and cause major hearing loss. The most common of these is presbycusis, or hearing pain associated with aging. Other common inner ear problems are related to infection, such as viral and bacterial infections. While bacterial infections typically can be completely cured, viral infections can, in some cases, cause permanent hearing loss. Non-cancerous tumors, known medically as acoustic neuromas, is another inner ear problem that can be quite serious if left untreated. This condition often requires surgery and radiation in order to treat completely.
One of the most common types of inner ear problems is presbycusis, which is also known as hearing loss related to aging. In this condition, sounds and speech may become harder to decipher because they seem slurred. Typically, this condition is caused by both a decrease in function of hair cells in the inner ear, as well as a significant slowdown of the nerves that bring information related to hearing to and from the brain. In most cases, a hearing aid is the most effective treatment for this condition. Early recognition and treatment may be able to prevent excessive hearing loss caused by aging.
Another common condition that can lead to inner ear problems is labyrinthitis. This condition typically occurs as a result of a bacterial infection of the ear, though it may also be due to an upper respiratory disorder. As with other types of bacterial infections, treatment with antibiotics is essential to completely cure labyrinthitis. Typically, once the bacterial infection is treated, hearing will be restored.
In some cases, a viral infection can lead to inner ear problems. The most common types of infections linked to inner ear hearing loss or other similar problems include mumps, measles, the flu, or even chickenpox. Infections caused by these conditions affect the inner ear, destroying hair and nerve endings. Often, any hearing loss associated with these types of infections are permanent.
Acoustic neuroma is a type tumor that is non-cancerous, and which develops in the inner ear canal. The most common symptoms of acoustic neuroma include hearing loss, dizziness, and ringing in the ears. Surgery is often essential to remove the tumor, along with radiation therapy. When left untreated, an acoustic neuroma can result in increased pressure on the brain, resulting in a life-threatening situation. Those who think they may have developed an acoustic neuroma should seek medical help as soon as possible.