Problems of the Outer Ear

The outer ear is comprised of two structures, the auricle and the external auditory canal. There are many common conditions that affect these two areas which can be easily diagnosed and treated. Some of these common problems are listed below:


The auricle is primarily composed of cartilage. The ear canal of cartilage and bone. Some children are born with an absent or malformed auricle and absent or narrow ear canal, both of which can be surgically reconstructed.

Cerumen Impaction

The external auditory canal is a passage between the auricle to the ear drum or the tympanic membrane. The skin is lined with special glands that secrete wax. Over a period of days, the top layer of the skin migrates towards the outer ear bringing wax to the exterior of the ear canal. Wax often gets trapped and requires removal. This is more common if the canals are narrow or tortuous or the skin is dry.

Otitis externa or swimmer’s ear

The wax produced in the ear canal is water resistant and also provides an acidic environment in the ear canal that prevents ear infection. Chronic moisture or skin problems of the canal can cause growth of bacteria or fungus known as otitis externa. Sometimes the infection can spread to the soft tissues of the ear, called cellulitis, or perichondritis if the cartilage is affected. In severe cases, the bone of the ear canal can become infected. This usually occurs in diabetics requiring oral antibiotics

Surfer’s ear

This is narrowing of the ear canal from cyst-like growth of the bone that lines the ear canal. This occurs when there is frequent exposure to very cold water as while surfing hence the name, surfer’s ear. This progressive process may ultimately lead to partial and complete occlusion of the ear canal. This leads to frequent trapping of water in the narrowed ear canal and eventually hearing loss. The treatment is surgically removing the extra bones.

All the conditions that affect ear canal cause same symptoms of ear pain, discharge, ear feeling plugged and change in hearing. Early detection prevents complications and treatment depends on the cause.

From the simplest wax removal to the most complicated tumor, EARS Inc. can diagnose and treat your ear canal problem.

Surfer's ear, Ear Associates, San Jose California
Surfer's Ear Intra-operative view of Surfer's Ear

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