Middle Ear Reconstruction
The middle ear consists of three small bones behind the eardrum, called the ossicles. They connect the eardrum to the inner ear, assisting hearing by changing sound waves to mechanical vibrations. If damage occurs to your middle ear, you may experience impaired hearing and hearing loss, spread of infection to nearby tissues, and tearing of the eardrum (which usually repairs itself within a few days). Damage can be caused by:
- Cholesteatoma (a type of skin cyst located in the middle ear and skull bone)
- Surgery or other causes
To diagnose a problem with the middle ear, your physician will use a pneumatic otoscope, an instrument that gently puffs air against the eardrum and assesses eardrum movement. Other tests might be needed, and in many cases only pain management remedies will be advised while the problem resolves itself.
In cases of recurrent middle ear infection or damage, ear tubes may be used to temporarily or permanently drain fluids from the middle ear in a procedure called myringotomy. Alternatively, the middle ear can be repaired by replacing the bones with prostheses. Many techniques for this procedure exist and must be tailored to the individual case. Any and/or all of the middle ear bones may be replaced to restore hearing. This delicate procedure is done under local or general anesthesia on an outpatient basis and only takes about one to three hours.