Common Middle Ear Problems

Common Middle Ear Problems


  • Hearing loss in one or both ears

  • Fluid, often smelly, draining from the ear

  • Pain, pressure, or discomfort in the ear

  • Ringing in the ear

  • Dizziness when you move your head

Your middle ear may have been injured or infected recently. Over time, certain growths or bone disease can also harm the middle ear. Left untreated, middle ear problems often lead to lifelong hearing loss. There are two types of hearing loss: conductive and sensorineural. One or both kinds can occur. Injury, infection, certain growths, or bone disease can cause your symptoms. A burst eardrum or a chronic (long-lasting) ear infection may be painful and decrease hearing. A growth or bone disease may damage the middle ear bones and affect hearing.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Cross section front view of outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Outer and middle ear are outlined. Inner ear is outlined. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves do not reach inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when sound waves are not processed correctly.

Sound waves may be disrupted before they reach the inner ear. If this happens, conductive hearing loss may occur. The ear canal can be blocked by wax, infection, a tumor, or a foreign object. The eardrum can be injured or infected. Abnormal bone growth, infection, or tumors in the middle ear can block sound waves.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Also called nerve deafness, sensorineural hearing loss often occurs in both ears. Sound waves may be poorly processed in the inner ear. Or nerve signals may not reach the brain. Aging, loud noise, toxins, or an inherited condition can cause nerve deafness.