Previously, Professor Dato’ Dr Balwant Singh Gendeh touched on otitis externa, or inflammation of the outer ear. This month, he will take us on a closer look into another type of ear inflammation that commonly affects children—inflammation of the middle ear, or otitis media.
SOUND & INFLAMMATION
When we mention ‘middle ear’, we refer to the central cavity of the ear which spans from behind eardrum all the way to the oval window, the name given to a membrane-covered opening that leads into the inner ear. The middle ear is connected to the nasal cavity via a narrow and tortuous tube known as Eustachian tube.
OUR VERY OWN SOUND SYSTEM T
he middle ear is an essential component of our auditory system. Prof Dr Balwant points out that there are three small bones in here, called the ossicles (see Figure A).
When we hear a sound, this sound is transferred through vibrations or waves in air molecules into our ear canal to reach the eardrum. The sound wave causes our eardrums to vibrate.
The vibration passes through the ossicles to the inner ear. The fluids in the inner ear will then convert the vibration into nerve signals and send these signals to our brain. Our brain will then interpret the sound and let us know just what we are hearing.
This entire process takes place in as little time as 0.05 seconds in a healthy person—which is about 10 times faster than the typical blink of an eye!
WHEN OTITIS MEDIA OCCURS
Inflammation is not necessarily a bad thing. It is the result of our body’s immune system mobilizing to protect us from infections. It is considered negative only in certain autoimmune diseases, when the immune system mistakes normal, healthy cells for the enemy and attacks these cells; fortunately, this doesn’t happen in otitis media.
Prof Dr Balwant explains that otitis media can be divided into two types: otitis media and otitis media with effusion. Each type can be acute (sudden or abrupt) or chronic (long-term).
Acute otitis media.
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