Information for Patients
Your ear has three main parts: outer, middle and inner. You use all of them in hearing. Sound waves come in through your outer ear. They reach your middle ear, where they make your eardrum vibrate. The vibrations are transmitted through three tiny bones, called ossicles, in your middle ear. The vibrations travel to your inner ear, a snail-shaped organ. The inner ear makes the nerve impulses that are sent to the brain. Your brain recognizes them as sounds. The inner ear also controls balance.
A variety of conditions may affect your hearing or balance:
- Ear infections are the most common illness in infants and young children.
- Tinnitus, a roaring in your ears, can be the result of loud noises, medicines or a variety of other causes.
- Meniere's disease may be the result of fluid problems in your inner ear; its symptoms include tinnitus and dizziness.
- Ear barotrauma is an injury to your ear because of changes in barometric (air) or water pressure.
Some ear disorders can result in hearing disorders and deafness.
If you've ever gotten a splinter or had sand in your eye, you've had experience with a foreign body. A foreign body is something that is stuck inside you but isn't supposed to be there. You may inhale or swallow a foreign body, or you may get one from an injury to almost any part of your body. Foreign bodies are more common in small children, who sometimes stick things in their mouths, ears, and noses.
Some foreign bodies, like a small splinter, do not cause serious harm. Inhaled or swallowed foreign bodies may cause choking or bowel obstruction and may require medical care.
Wounds and Injuries
An injury is damage to your body. It is a general term that refers to harm caused by accidents, falls, hits, weapons, and more. In the U.S., millions of people injure themselves every year. These injuries range from minor to life-threatening. Injuries can happen at work or play, indoors or outdoors, driving a car, or walking across the street.
Wounds are injuries that break the skin or other body tissues. They include cuts, scrapes, scratches, and punctured skin. They often happen because of an accident, but surgery, sutures, and stitches also cause wounds. Minor wounds usually aren't serious, but it is important to clean them. Serious and infected wounds may require first aid followed by a visit to your doctor. You should also seek attention if the wound is deep, you cannot close it yourself, you cannot stop the bleeding or get the dirt out, or it does not heal.
Other common types of injuries include
- Animal bites
- Electrical injuries
- Sprains and strains