Chronic Ear Diseases & Infections

The healthcare providers at Midwest Ear Institute have extensive experience with diagnosing and treating chronic ear diseases and infections. We provide a range of services that include comprehensively testing and treating ear-related conditions.


Also known as cerumen, earwax is a natural substance the body makes to help protect the ears. It is made from secretions produced by glands in the ear, dead skin cells that shed as the skin in the ears constantly regenerate, and dirt as well as dust. Earwax serves important functions for the ears including keeping them moisturized which prevents dryness and itchiness. Also, trapping dirt and other debris helps prevent bacteria from accumulating and reaching the inner ear. Earwax typically works its way from the ear canal to the outer ear where it flakes off. But some people produce more earwax than others or earwax can be harder and less able to migrate out of the ears. This can lead to an accumulation of earwax, referred to as impacted earwax which can contribute to ear-related issues like challenges with balance and hearing loss.

Impacted earwax can be caused by ear infections, autoimmune conditions, a narrowed ear canal, bone growths, or other ear obstructions. We can physically inspect your ears to check for a buildup of earwax and remove it using medical instruments designed for the ears.

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External Otitis

Commonly known as the swimmer’s ear, external otitis is an infection of the outer ear. This infection results when water gets trapped in the ear canal which leads to a buildup of bacteria that causes irritation and infection in the ear. Swimming, showering, and other water activities are common contributors to this type of infection. Common symptoms of external otitis include itching inside the ear, intense pain, drainage, feeling that the ear is full, reduced hearing capacity, swollen lymph nodes, and fever.

Diagnosing external otitis involves using a microscope to examine the ear canal and eardrum. Any fluid or drainage present in the ears may be suctioned so that there is a clear view of your ear. Treatment depends on the severity of the infection and could include: ear drops that alleviate inflammation and prevent the growth of bacteria or antibiotics to treat the infection.

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This is an abnormal skin growth or cyst that develops in the middle ear, behind the eardrum. Cholesteatoma can be caused by chronic ear infections as well as issues with the eustachian tube. This tube goes from the back of the nose to the middle of the ear and helps maintain ear pressure. Common symptoms of cholesteatoma include earaches, drainage, unpleasant odor from the ear, sense of fullness or pressure in the ear, muscle weakness on that side of the face, vertigo, and hearing loss. The cyst can grow larger, causing serious health complications so having it assessed as soon as possible is important.

Diagnosing cholesteatoma involves thoroughly examining the ears. There are different diagnostics we can perform to accurately identify the cyst. This includes CT scans, ear drops, antibiotics, and cleaning the ear to effectively establish the extent of the cholesteatoma and its impact. Treatment involves surgically removing the cyst. Performed under general anesthesia, this surgery eliminates the infection. If the cyst caused any damage to the bones in the middle ear, a follow-up surgery may be needed.

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Ear Tubes

A common solution for chronic middle ear infections (otitis media), ear tubes are tiny cylinders that are inserted into the eardrum to facilitate airflow. These tubes are hollow cylinders that are made of metal or plastic. The surgical procedure, referred to as a myringotomy, involves creating a small incision in the eardrum and inserting the tube. This is done using a microscope and a scalpel or a laser can also be used. The opening that the tubes create enables drainable of the middle ear and allows air into the middle ear.

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Perforated Ear Drum

The eardrum is a thin membrane that divides the ear canal and middle ear. A perforated eardrum is a tear, rupture, or hole in the eardrum which can be caused by infection, injury, or issues with the eustachian tube. This can produce a range of symptoms including: ear pain, tinnitus (a buzzing or ringing in the ears), hearing loss, drainage, and dizziness. Perforated eardrums that are caused by mild infections or injury typically heal on their own within a few weeks. For more severe perforations, surgery may be required to close the hole.

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