Diseases of the ear

In most cases, ear disorders manifest themselves either in pain in the ear area or in hearing disorders. The causes are varied. Below you will find an overview and brief explanation of the most important ear diseases.

The most common ear diseases are listed below:

  1. Diseases of the external ear
  2. Middle ear diseases
  3. Diseases of the inner ear

Anatomical division of the ear

The ear is anatomically divided into three sections.

  • Outer ear: from the auricle to the eardrum, contains the ear canal
  • Middle ear: contains the tympanic cavity with the ossicles
  • Inner ear: contains the organ of equilibrium and the labyrinth

Diseases of the external ear


Earache is one of the most common key symptoms in ENT. They can arise, for example, from an otitis media or an inflammation of the ear canal. Nerve irritation can also lead to ear pain. An ENT doctor can find out the cause of the earache and initiate appropriate therapy.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Earache

Torn earlobe

A torn earlobe is usually a harmless minor injury. This can either be traumatic or due to other illnesses that cause dry skin. A torn earlobe will heal without therapy. However, if it occurs frequently, an underlying disease should be considered and a doctor should be consulted.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Torn earlobe

Inflammation of the ear lobes

Inflammation of the earlobe is usually harmless and heals on its own. A common cause is a contact allergy to components of costume jewelry such as nickel. It is also possible that germs penetrate through an injury to the earlobe and cause inflammation of the earlobe.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Inflammation of the ear lobes

Inflammation of an ear hole

Inflammation of an ear hole most often occurs shortly after the ear hole is pierced. Due to the small injury, it is possible for pathogens to penetrate the wound and cause inflammation here. It is therefore essential to pay attention to hygiene after the piercing and to disinfect the new ear hole regularly.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Inflammation of an ear hole

Inflammation of the ear

In the case of inflammation of the ear, a distinction can be made between inflammation of the outer ear and the ear canal and otitis media. With all forms there is severe earache. An ENT doctor can determine the exact cause and location of the inflammation and initiate the appropriate therapy.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Inflammation of the ear

Swelling behind the ear

Especially with a cold, there is often a swelling of the lymph nodes, also behind the ear. This is harmless and goes away on its own after a few days. Another cause of swelling behind the ear is what is known as atheroma, a clogged sebum gland.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Swelling behind the ear

Ring ear

By the term ring ear I mean an effusion between the ear cartilage and the cartilage skin. This effusion usually results from an external force, such as wrestling. It is very important to relieve the effusion by making a small incision, otherwise the cartilage may become inflamed or the ear may be deformed.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Ring ear


Mastoiditis is inflammation of the mastoid process of the skull. The symptoms of mastoiditis are earache, painful swelling behind the ear, and a reduced general condition. Since it can lead to serious complications, therapy in the hospital is unavoidable. Here antibiotic therapy is initiated via the vein and, if the findings are extensive, surgical intervention may be carried out.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Mastoiditis

Herpes zoster oticus

Zoster oticus is an infestation of the seventh and / or eighth cranial nerve with the varicella zoster virus. Since these nerves supply the area of ​​the ear with sensitivity, the typical painful vesicles appear on the auricle and in the external auditory canal. In addition, the patients have a fever and are in poor general condition. Antiviral drugs are given as part of inpatient therapy in order to avoid complications such as hearing loss.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Herpes zoster oticus

Foreign body in the ear

Foreign bodies in the ear are particularly common in children. They do not pose a threat, but should still be removed. This can either be tried carefully at home with tweezers. However, if the foreign body has slipped deeper into the ear, it is advisable to consult a doctor and have the foreign body professionally removed.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Foreign body in the ear

Middle ear diseases

Otitis media

This is an acute inflammation of the middle ear. Middle ear infections are particularly common in children. It initially expresses itself with a dull feeling of pressure and tension. Within a few hours, sharp pain occurs in the affected ear, which is caused by a build-up of secretion and inflammatory reactions in the middle ear. The treatment of otitis media is symptomatic as well as causal. First of all, the pain in the ear should be treated with pain relievers. In addition, the ENT doctor prescribes decongestant nasal drops to make it easier for the secretions in the ear to drain away. Definitive therapy often requires the use of antibiotics.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Otitis media

Timpani effusion

A tympanic effusion describes an accumulation of fluid in the tympanic cavity. This is often caused by an enlargement of the tonsils, especially in children. In adults, a tympanic effusion can also develop in the context of a tumor in the nasopharynx. Symptomatic of the effusion is a feeling of pressure in the ear and a hearing loss. In children, it usually helps to remove the enlarged tonsils. In adults, a precise search for the cause is important in order to rule out a possibly malignant origin.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Timpani effusion


In the case of cholesteatoma, cells were carried over from the outer ear to the middle ear before birth. The cells begin to grow over the course of life and obstruct the ear canal. This can result in pain and hearing impairment. Cholesteatoma can be diagnosed with a CT scan or MRI and treated with surgery. Most often, this operation is performed through the patient's outer ear.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Cholesteatoma

Torn eardrum

The eardrum is a thin membrane that lies between the outer ear and the middle ear. Reasons for a tear are excessive pressure fluctuations, e.g. while diving or flying. The symptoms of a tear in the eardrum are severe, sharp pain with subsequent hearing loss. Small cracks heal on their own. In the case of larger defects, the hole can be splinted with a silicone film. Painkillers or antibiotics are used for severe pain or inflammation.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Torn eardrum

Diseases of the inner ear

Sudden hearing loss

In ENT, sudden hearing loss is a reduction or loss of hearing in one ear without an identifiable cause. It is a sudden phenomenon that usually occurs when you are completely free of symptoms. The risk factors include e.g. Obesity, high blood pressure, smoking and above all stress. The therapy of sudden hearing loss usually consists of the administration of high-dose cortisone preparations. Other approaches pursue the administration of vitamin C or oxygen.

For more information on this topic, see: Sudden hearing loss

Circulatory disorder of the ear

The causes of circulatory disorders in the ear are the same as in other parts of the body. Pre-existing diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure not only affect the large vessels, but also the vessels in the ear. The symptoms are often ringing in the ears or hearing loss. If the organ of equilibrium is affected, dizziness attacks can occur.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Circulatory disorder of the ear

Meniere's disease

Menière's disease is a disease of the inner ear in which it leads to an increased accumulation of fluid in the inner ear. The typical symptoms are tinnitus, unilateral hearing loss and vertigo. Since the exact cause of the disease has not yet been sufficiently clarified, therapy is also difficult. In general, a healthy lifestyle and a reduction in stress, alcohol and nicotine consumption are recommended.

Further information on this topic can be found at: Meniere's disease

Hearing loss

The hearing loss is divided into conductive (cause in the middle ear) or sound receiving hearing loss (cause in the inner ear or auditory nerve). The hearing loss is examined using audiometry. Here the audible tone threshold is determined for different frequencies. Further diagnostics for the investigation of the causes follow. With increasing age, a certain degree of hearing loss is normal and is known as presbycusis (age-related hearing loss).

You can find more information on this topic at: Hearing loss

Tinnitus / ringing in the ears

Tinnitus refers to the presence of permanent noises in the ear that cannot be heard from the outside and arise in the ear or the hearing organ. They are often very stressful for those affected and can express themselves as whistling, beeping or humming. Nothing is known precisely about the causes. However, factors such as stress and overwork play a role. Medicines and cortisone that stimulate blood circulation are used therapeutically, which is hoped to improve the symptoms. Regarding the prognosis, it can be said that the tinnitus will heal on its own in a large proportion of those affected.

For more information on this topic, see: Tinnitus or Ringing in the ears

Anatomy of the ear

Figure hearing and balance organs

A - outer ear - Auris externa
B - middle ear - Auris media
C - inner ear - Auris interna

  1. Ear strip - Helix
  2. Counter bar - Antihelix
  3. Auricle - Auricula
  4. Ear corner - Tragus
  5. Earlobe -
    Lobulus auriculae
  6. External ear canal -
    Meatus acousticus externus
  7. Temporal bone - Temporal bone
  8. Eardrum -
    Tympanic membrane
  9. Stirrups - Stapes
  10. Eustachian tube (tube) -
    Tuba auditiva
  11. Slug - Cochlea
  12. Auditory nerve - Cochlear nerve
  13. Equilibrium nerve -
    Vestibular nerve
  14. Inner ear canal -
    Meatus acousticus internus
  15. Enlargement (ampoule)
    of the posterior semicircular canal -
    Ampulla membranacea posterior
  16. Archway -
    Semicircural duct
  17. Anvil - Incus
  18. Hammer - Malleus
  19. Tympanic cavity -
    Cavitas tympani

You can find an overview of all Dr-Gumpert images at: medical illustrations