Knowing more about ear ache and ear discharge
by Dr Joel Akande
Ear ache is common in both adults and children. However, due to the naivety of children, the symptom of ear ache is often seen more in children. Pain in the ear frequently comes with discharge but either may exist or occur independently of the other.
What causes earache? Just as any pain in any part of the human body, pain foretells or warns us of an underlying illness; so is the ache or pain in the ear. The human ear is medically divided into three parts. The external ear, otherwise called the pinna, is one. The middle ear and the inner ear are the two others. I will spare the readers of the complex anatomy of the ear. However, the external ear is the flabby part that we all see hanging on everyone’s head on both sides of the head.
The canal that leads from this rugged form work of the external ear into the head is called auditory canal or meatus. At the end of the inner recess of the canal is a delicate thin layer of film cover called eardrum. Beyond this layer is called inner ear that is a complicated labyrinth and consists of three small bones, which are connected to nerves that relay messages and sound to the brain.
Diseases on any part of this complex architecture may lead to pain. Starting from the external ear, injuries, such as falls may bruise the ear with or without visible injury. “Dirty”slap and other forms of assault or abuse may cause injury too. Infections, be it bacteria or viruses, may signal its own presence by means of pain. Fungal infection though most likely to give itching and rashes may itself give rise to pain in the external ear.
Moving into the auditory meatus, frequently, children may put foreign objects into the ear and forget such objects in the ear. Ultimately, the ear may become infected and inflamed causing ear pain. Independent of foreign objects, infection from the pinna or external ear may spread into the mid ear. Any of the infections as mentioned above may be the culprit. Sadly, adults often use foreign blunt or sharp objects to clean the ear to remove wax from the canal. Such cleaning objects are dangerous as they may pierce the ear drum with severe consequences.
The ear drum could also be damaged from excessively loud music or noise that reaches the ear. Apart from the ear getting used to loud noise that leads to deafness, sudden loud noise may cause significant discomfort for the ear. Injuries of any nature, particularly road traffic accidents, could affect the ear and cause some aches. Such accidents, slaps, or trauma may be accompanied by bleeding from the inner or mid-ear to the shock of the victim of such injury.
The inner ear could also suffer from the impact of infection or injury that affects external ear and mid ear. Such pain affecting inner ear could cause a lot of headache. Dental diseases (mouth diseases) and throat illnesses could cause serious painful discomfort in the ear of the sufferer. Even, illnesses of the brain could radiate pain to the ear. Diseases of the nose could also affect the ear.
All of the illnesses and conditions that I have mentioned could be accompanied with bleeding or ear discharge. It could also happen that, the patient feel so unwell, has difficulty hearing, with poor sleep and poor appetite. This could be so, especially in children. Physical activity or play may be reduced and the person looks ill. Fever, headache, vomiting and difficulty in swallowing may be noticed.
What to do: I will caution that, you should avoid self-surgery or treatment on the ear. Either in children or adults, once an ache or discharge is noticed, head straight to consult a competent medical doctor. Infection may have to be treated. Foreign objects may have to be removed. X-Ray, CTScan or MRI Scan may have to be ordered. In some cases, the victim may have to be referred to a specialist ENT Surgeon.
Prevention: Both in children and adults, foreign objects should not be inserted in the ear. Cleaning of ear requires methodical use of water under medical attention or olive oil that could be dropped in the ear for a few days to soften and remove ear wax. Foreign objects require specialist attention. Abuse and “dirty” slapping should be avoided as is loud noise.
Credit: The Nation