The ear consists of three areas—the outer, middle, and inner ear. The nose is the organ of smell and is part of the peripheral nervous system. The throat is a ring-like muscular tube that acts as the passageway for air, food, and liquid.
Otolaryngology is the medical specialty that focuses on medical and surgical treatment for patients who have disorders of the ear, nose, throat, and related structures.
Audiologists address hearing and balance problems in people of all ages. They also help with the fitting and management of hearing aids.
In some people, hearing loss can be surgically corrected. For others, medical devices and rehabilitation therapies often can help reduce hearing loss.
Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is the gradual loss of hearing in both ears. It’s a common problem linked to aging.
Tinnitus is the sound of ringing, roaring, buzzing, hissing, or clicking that happens inside the head. The sounds may come and go, be continuous, happen in one or both ears, and vary in pitch.
Your child’s inner ears may be damaged if he or she is around extremely loud noises or around loud noises for long periods of time. This is called noise-induced hearing loss.
Acoustic neuroma is a rare noncancerous tumor. It grows slowly from an overproduction of Schwann cells and is also called a vestibular schwannoma. The tumor then presses on the hearing and balance nerves in the inner ear. Schwann cells normally wrap around and support nerve fibers. A large tumor can press on the facial nerve or brain structures.
Ménière disease is a balance disorder. It’s caused by an abnormality in part the inner ear called the labyrinth. Fluid build-up here can cause a severe spinning sensation (vertigo) and affect the hearing.
Hearing aids are electronic or battery-operated devices that can amplify and change sound. A microphone receives the sound and converts it into sound waves. The sound waves are then converted into electrical signals.
In addition to hearing aids, many other devices are available to help improve communication in daily life. These range from telephone amplifiers to visual alarm systems.