Discharging ears

It is one of the leading causes of hearing loss in the world. Here’s what you need to know about discharging ears…

According to the World Health Organization, Chronic Suppurative Otitis Media (CSOM), better known as discharging ears, is a major cause of acquired hearing impairment in children and adults.

Around one in 180 people in the UK1 are affected by discharging ears (CSOM), defined by the long term inflammation of the middle ear and the connecting mastoid space. Prolonged duration of CSOM is associated with middle ear complications causing more severe hearing losses, potential infection of the skull and even the brain (bacterial meningitis)2.

What is it?

CSOM is a chronic inflammation of the middle ear that lasts for more than 2 weeks, and results in episodes of ear discharge. This infection can become a continuous cycle of runny ears and can lead to constant difficulties, especially with hearing.

Hearing can be affected by discharge blocking the ear canal and preventing sound reaching the inner ear, causing a Conductive Hearing Loss. Wearing a hearing aid can exacerbate the problem by preventing air circulating through the ear canal, and the ear from drying out. This causes a vicious cycle of recurrent ear infections and smelly discharge, leading to embarrassment and discomfort; making the use of conventional hearing aids difficult or even impossible.

If diagnosed with CSOM, the standard advice is to avoid getting your ears wet, both in the shower and swimming. This can be done through several different methods including the use of swim plugs, which create a seal to prevent water entering your ears. Speak to your ENT or Audiology healthcare professional for further advice.

Why a hearing aid might not be the best solution

Traditional hearing aids are not the most effective treatment for conductive hearing loss as sound doesn’t travel efficiently through to the inner ear. Conventional hearing aids have to be turned up very loud for the sound to reach the inner ear, which often results in a distorted sound quality. With a bone anchored hearing aid (Baha) implant, sounds travel to the inner ear through vibrations (bone conduction), bypassing the middle ear and  resulting in a better sound quality than a conventional hearing aid.

Find out more

To find out more about Baha implants, and how ear infections shouldn’t hold you back, the first step is to speak with a healthcare professional. Depending on your specific needs, there are many different healthcare professionals who can support you on your journey back to better hearing.

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References

1. Nearly 375,000 people in the UK - 123,189 children and 251,791 adults - have runny ears, or 0.6% of the population, based on 2015 figures from the Office for National Statistics

2. Jung, TT; Alper, CM; Hellstorm, SO; Hunter, LL; Casselbrant, ML; Groth, A; Kemaloglu, YK; Kim, SG; Lim, D; Nittrourer, S; Park, KH; Sabo, D; Sprately, J (April 2013). "Panel 8: Complications and sequelae". Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. E (4 Suppl): E122–43

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