Ear conditions

Specialist ENT, Dr van Lierop also has unrivalled experience in the diagnosis, treatment and management of ear conditions and hearing problems. An ENT is also referred to as an Otolaryngologist, and they are specially trained to determine whether a disorder, infection or illness may be affecting hearing, as well as assess the role of the ears in balance, dizziness, level of hearing, ringing or pain affecting the ear. Dr van Lierop can also treat conditions of the ear that may have existed from birth.

There are many conditions and illnesses that can affect the ears, but the most common treated by Dr van Lierop include:

- Earwax
Earwax or cerumen is a yellowish, waxy material inside the ear. It is slightly acidic, has antibacterial properties and helps lubricate, clean and protect the inner lining of the ear by repelling water, trapping dirt, and ensuring nothing gets through the ear canal. In normal amounts, earwax is healthy and is able to exit the ear canal via the ear opening. However, earwax can also accumulate and can cause a blockage that leads to hearing loss, earache, ear infections and tinnitus (ringing in the ear). All these complications can be safely treated by an ENT, usually with manual micro suction of the ear canal.

- Ear infections
Ear infections (also known as acute otitis media) are generally caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi entering the outer, middle or inner ear, but may also be caused by colds, allergies and sinus infections. Ear infections are accompanied by symptoms of pain, dizziness, fluid discharge from the ear and hearing loss, and while most don't cause long-term complications, recurring ear infections may lead to spread of infection, tearing of the eardrum and permanent hearing loss. Treatment generally involves antibiotics, decongestant, nasal steroids, or an antihistamine, but treatment depends on what area of the ear is affected.

- Hearing loss
Ageing and chronic exposure to loud noises both contribute to hearing loss. Hearing loss that occurs gradually as you age (presbycusis) is very common, but as part of your assessment with Dr van Lierop, those with hearing problems will be advised to have a hearing test after a physical exam. During the physical exam, your ENT will check for any issues such as ear wax blockages and build-up that may be causing hearing loss. The hearing test is then done to identify the cause for hearing loss and find the most suitable treatment to prevent further hearing loss and possibly improve your hearing. Treatment may involve hearing aids, certain medicines, or even surgery.

- Perforated eardrum
Eardrum perforation, otherwise known as tympanic perforation, occurs when the thin membrane that separates your outer ear from your inner ear, tears. A ruptured eardrum (tympanic membrane perforation) can be a result of pressure changes in the ear caused by infections, scuba diving, flying in an aeroplane or due to traumatic injuries with direct, forceful impact into or onto the ear. A ruptured eardrum can result in hearing loss and leave the middle ear vulnerable to infections, so it is vital to contact Dr van Lierop should you experience sudden hearing loss (particularly in one ear), vertigo, drainage from your ear or ringing in the ear (tinnitus).

In some cases a ruptured eardrum can heal without treatment, however, depending on the severity of the tear, a surgical procedure known as myringoplasty or tympanoplasty may be needed to repair the hole in the eardrum.

- Vertigo
Vertigo is not just a general feeling of faintness but more of a spinning sensation, a rotational dizziness. The sensation feels as if either you are spinning around the room or the room around you, as well as lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting and a sense of imbalance. There is a range of different diseases and conditions that can lead to persistent vertigo, but the most common is due to problems in the inner ear, brain, or sensory nerve pathway. After an assessment with Dr van Lierop he will be able to tell you whether or not your vertigo is related to inner ear conditions like benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), Meniere’s disease, Labyrinthitis or Vestibular Neuronitis and what treatment may involve.

- Cholesteatoma
Cholesteatoma is an abnormal, noncancerous skin growth that develops in the middle ear behind the eardrum in which skin cells from the eardrum and ear canal collect to form a sac. It causes chronic ear infection with ear discharge, and as these dead skin cells accumulate, the cyst can grow in size, affect hearing, balance and destroy the delicate bones of the middle ear. A cholesteatoma can also cause an infection of the mastoid bone and impaired function of the facial nerve. It may present at birth, but may also be the result of repeated ear infections or a poorly functioning eustachian tube. This abnormal growth would then need to be treated by your ENT specialist with a surgical procedure known as a mastoidectomy to prevent progression of the disease.