1301 20th Street, Suite 300, Santa Monica, CA 90404

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Ear / Otology

Click on a topic below to learn more:

External & Middle Ear Infections Bell’s Palsy / Facial Nerve Paralysis
Surfer’s Ear Repair / Exostosis Removal Temporal Bone CT Imaging
Ear Drum Perforation Repair / Tympanoplasty Pressure Equalization Tube Placement / Tympanostomy
Hearing Loss Ossiculoplasty
Ringing in Ears / Tinnitus Mastoidectomy
Dizziness, Vertigo & Balance Disorders Otoplasty
Mastoid Infections

External & Middle Ear Infection Treatment

p-IMG_5498_2The ear is made up of three different parts – the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. Although infections can occur in any area, they are most common in the outer and middle ear.

Otitis externa is an infection of the outer ear and ear canal, and is also known as swimmer’s ear. In addition to ear pain, otitis externa can cause discharge, headaches, and temporary changes in hearing. Treatment usually involves removing any debris from the ear canal and administration of antibiotic ear drops.

Middle ear infections, also known as otitis media, are one of the most common childhood conditions, affecting mostly children between the ages of four months and five years. An infection occurs when middle ear fluid, often as a result of a cold or eustachian tube dysfunction, becomes infected by bacteria. Symptoms of otitis media include ear pain, fever, headache, dizziness and irritability.

Acute infections are treated with antibiotics and often anti-inflammatory medications as well. However, recurrent infections may require surgery for placement of a pressure equalization tube. We provide comprehensive treatment of external and middle ear infections at our Los Angeles office.

  • Contact us to learn more about External & Middle Ear Infections.

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Surfer’s Ear Repair / Exostosis Removal

Exostosis, commonly referred to as surfer’s ear, involves an abnormal bone growth within the ear canal that can narrow the canal and block the eardrum. This occurs as a reaction to the repeated exposure to cold wind and water often experienced while surfing or swimming. Patients with this condition often feel as though their ear is plugged. They may develop frequent infections and even hearing loss if bone growth is severe.

Effective treatment of surfer’s ear is often achieved through surgical removal of the bony growth, which may be performed using minimally invasive techniques through the ear canal, or through incisions in the back of the ear. Patients should avoid any water activities for four to six weeks after surgery to allow for healing of the ear canal.

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Ear Drum Perforation Repair / Tympanoplasty

Tympanoplasty is a reconstructive surgical procedure performed to correct a tympanic membrane perforation (hole in the eardrum). Tympanic membrane perforations may occur as a result of infection or trauma to the eardrum. A tympanoplasty can help to restore hearing or prevent recurrent middle ear infections.

A tympanoplasty can be performed through either the ear canal or through an incision made behind the ear. Tympanic membrane grafting may be required, in which a graft is taken from either fat or a connective tissue called fascia from around the ear to reconstruct the eardrum. The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis in our Los Angeles area office under local or general anesthetic.

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Hearing Loss

p-iStock_000004677660XSmallHearing loss is the sudden or gradual decrease in how well you can hear sounds. Most commonly caused by age, hearing loss is a common condition that affects up to 25% of people between the ages of 65 and 75, and up to 75% of people over the age of 75. Hearing loss can be mild or severe and can be reversible, temporary or permanent.

Hearing loss is most frequently caused by age or excessively loud noise. Noise-induced hearing loss is gradual but can affect people of all ages. It is caused by loud noises, such as music, lawn mowers, and other machinery that you are exposed to over a long period of time. Age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, refers to changes in the inner ear or cochlea which cause gradual hearing loss. Hearing loss can also be caused by many other conditions, including wax buildup, a foreign body in the ear canal, an injury or ruptured eardrum, or a middle or inner ear infection.

Common symptoms of hearing loss include muffled hearing, not understanding what people are saying and the feeling that your ear is obstructed. Other symptoms can include ringing, hissing or buzzing in the ear. It is important to talk to your doctor if you have from any of these symptoms. As part of our exam, your doctor may use a tuning fork to test your basic hearing. If hearing loss is indicated, a more detailed audiologic test may be performed.

Hearing loss can have a major effect on your daily life and make it harder for you to interact with others. It can also affect your personal safety. Treatment for hearing loss depends on the cause of the problem. The most common treatment method is the use of a hearing aid, a small device with a microphone to gather sounds and an amplifier to increase their volume. Simply removing ear wax can eliminate hearing loss for some patients. Our doctors at Southern California Head and Neck will work with you to determine the most effective hearing loss treatment for your individual condition. We have a separate facility for hearing loss rehabilitation at Ocean Hearing Care.

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Ringing in the Ears / Tinnitus Treatment

iStock_000012186011SmallTinnitus is a symptom involving phantom noises such as ringing or buzzing in the ears that affects nearly one out of every five Americans at some point in their life. Although common, tinnitus can be difficult to treat, and may be caused by an underlying condition or damage to the structures within the inner ear. We provide comprehensive diagnostic and treatment services for tinnitus in our Los Angeles area office.

The sensations of ringing, buzzing, clicking or hissing associated with tinnitus are phantom sounds only heard by the patient. Noises can vary in volume from very soft to loud, are typically high-pitched, and can occur in one or both ears. Most cases of tinnitus are referred to as subjective, in which only the patient can hear these sounds as a a result of problems in the outer, middle or inner ear. Rare cases in which sounds can be heard by the doctor, known as objective tinnitus, can occur as a result of blood vessel abnormalities.

Tinnitus is most often caused by acoustic trauma to the inner ear over time, in which the inner ear cells transmit an impulse to the cochlear nerve in the absence of an external stimulus, resulting in the brain perceiving that a sound has been heard. Other causes of tinnitus include age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud noise and earwax blockage. Stress, depression and head or neck injuries can also lead to tinnitus. An audiogram can be helpful in differentiating routine cases of tinnitus from those caused by a more serious underlying condition, such as a brain tumor.

Treatment of tinnitus depends on the cause of the problem. After a thorough evaluation of each patient’s individual condition, your doctor will be able to develop an appropriate treatment approach, which may include a change in medication, vitamin supplement, dietary adjustments, avoiding alcohol and caffeine or other methods. If you suffer from symptoms of tinnitus, talk to your doctor to discuss your treatment options.

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Dizziness, Vertigo & Balance Disorders Treatment

A balance disorder will often present as feelings of unsteadiness and wooziness, or sensations of spinning, moving, floating or falling. The inner ear interacts with other organs in the body, such as the eyes and brain, as well as proprioception, or the sensation in the extremities and joints to maintain balance. Problems within the vestibular (inner ear), brain or other parts of the nervous system can cause balance problems, which affect millions of people in the US each year.

Treatment for a balance disorder depends on its cause. Treating the underlying cause can eliminate balance problems for many people. For others, balance rehabilitation therapy and lifestyle changes can help dramatically relieve symptoms. Rarely, surgery may be indicated for patients with specific disorders that affect the inner ear. Effective managment of balance disorders can often be achieved by working together with one of our experienced doctors in our Los Angeles area office.

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Mastoid Infections Treatment

p-BXP52993The mastoid bone is the posterior part of the temporal bone, and is made up of air cells that connect with the middle ear. Untreated infections within the middle ear may spread to the mastoid bone, causing symptoms such as fever, tenderness and bulging behind the ear. This type of infection, known as mastoiditis, occurs most commonly in children, but can affect patients of all ages. Mastoid infections can usually be treated with antibiotics administered either orally or intravenously. For severe cases, surgery to place a pressure equalization tube in the ear drum or a mastoidectomy to remove the infected area of bone may be recommended.

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Bell’s Palsy / Facial Nerve Paralysis

Bell’s palsy, or idiopathic facial paralysis, is a disorder of the facial nerve that can result in temporary or permanent facial paralysis. Thousands of people in the US are diagnosed with Bell’s palsy each year, which most commonly affects adults around the age of 40 and those with diabetes or upper respiratory ailments.

Bell’s palsy is caused by an inflammation of the facial nerve, usually from a viral infection. The portion of the facial nerve within the skull becomes swollen, and is unable to properly transmit nerve impulses to the facial muscles, resulting in a loss of voluntary muscle control and partial or full paralysis. A number of different viruses can cause Bell’s palsy. If infected, you may experience a sudden paralysis or weakness of some or all of the muscles on one side of the face, as well as other symptoms such as:

Pain in the ear Loss of taste
Headache Change in tear and saliva production

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy may resolve quickly or may result in partial or total facial paralysis that can become permanent. The prognosis for each patient’s individual condition is dependent on the timeliness of evaluation and treatment, as Bell’s palsy produces a sudden onset of symptoms that requires prompt medical attention. Treatment typically includes anti-inflammatory and anti-viral medications.

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Temporal Bone CT Imaging

The temporal bones are located on the side of the skull and include the structures of the ear canal and middle and inner ear. Disease or damage to the temporal bone may cause symptoms such as hearing loss, facial paralysis or bleeding from the ear. Accurate diagnosis of these conditions is essential in preserving hearing and ensuring proper treatment.

A CT scan may be performed to diagnose a fracture, infection or other disease of the temporal bone, as it provides several different cross-sectional images of this area for complete visual assessment of the inner ear and related structures. After a CT scan, your doctor will develop a customized treatment approach for your individual condition.

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Pressure Equalization Tube Placement / Tympanostomy

p-iStock_000005608156SmallPatients who suffer from recurrent ear infections or fluid in the ear may benefit from pressure equalization (PE) tubes. PE tubes, also called tympanostomy or ventilation tubes, are small inserts that are surgically placed in the eardrum under monitored sedation in children, or under local anesthetic for adults on an outpatient basis in our Los Angeles area office. Adult patients can usually return to work and other regular activities the same day, while children can return to school the next day. PE tubes allow air to enter the middle ear and fluid to drain effectively, while also restoring hearing and preventing fluid from building up again in the future.

Tympanostomy tubes are usually considered when a patient has fluid in one or both ears for more than 3 months or has recurring ear infections. The tubes drain the ears of fluid and allow ventilation of the middle ear. Tympanostomy tubes typically stay in place for 6-12 months, at which time they fall out on their own or, less commonly, are surgically removed. The tubes are usually effective in preventing ear infections.

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iStock_000011899840XSmallOssiculoplasty is a surgical procedure that repairs the bones within the middle ear to restore movement after they have been damaged by infection, disease, or trauma. This procedure is often performed in conjunction with tympanoplasty and is intended to improve hearing. During this procedure, an incision is made either within the ear canal or behind the ear to access the middle ear and may involve moving the bone or inserting a graft to improve the movement of the middle ear bones and allow for improved hearing. This procedure is performed under either general or local anesthesia on an outpatient basis in our Los Angeles area facility.

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A mastoidectomy is the surgical removal of infected air cells within the mastoid bone (the prominent bone behind the ear), which may be result from mastoiditis, ear infections, the presence of a cholesteatoma or inflammatory conditions of the middle ear. Mastoid air cells are open spaces containing air found in the mastoid bone. They are connected to a cavity in the upper part of the mastoid bone, which connects to the middle ear. Infections in the middle ear can therefore spread to the mastoid bone, making surgery necessary if antibiotics are not effective.  The goals of surgery are to remove the infected portions of the mastoid bone or to decompress the facial nerve in cases of facial paralysis.

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Otoplasty is a surgical procedure performed to correct large, protruding or otherwise deformed ears. Unlike most other plastic surgery procedures, otoplasty is often performed on children, as well as adults. In addition to correcting ears that are naturally large or deformed, otoplasty can also repair damage caused by an accident or injury.

During the otoplasty procedure, an incision is made behind the ear to reshape the cartilage and adjust the size and position of the ears for a more natural-looking appearance. For children, this procedure is usually performed under general anesthesia, while adults usually require only local anesthesia and sedation. Both ears may be operated on in order to achieve better balance. The results of the otoplasty procedure are permanent and scars will fade with time to become less noticeable.

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