Middle Ear Disorder Terminology

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  • 0:00 The Middle Ear
  • 0:27 Barotrauma
  • 1:30 Inflammation
  • 2:56 Other Conditions
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Trauma and inflammation in the middle ear can cause pain and hearing difficulties. This lesson outlines some of the common disorders associated with the middle ear. Test your understanding by completing the quiz at the end of the lesson.

The Middle Ear

What do scuba divers, high-altitude fliers, and people around bomb blasts have in common? They all have the potential to experience a certain kind of trauma. You'll find out soon enough what this trauma is as I define terms related to disorders of the middle ear.

The middle ear is the part of your ear located between the eardrum and the inner ear. It contains three bones, called ossicles, which help transmit sound waves to the inner ear.


So, what do scuba divers, high-altitude fliers, and people around bomb blasts all have the potential to develop? It's called barotrauma, an injury to the ear that occurs as a result of a pressure difference between the middle ear and the ambient pressure. By ambient, I mean the surrounding environment. Think of the word 'ambiance' to help you remember this.

I have some notes I'd like to share before we move on here though. While barotrauma does usually involve the middle ear, barotrauma, that is to say, pressure-related discomfort and injury can involve the outer and inner ear as well. It can also affect the sinuses. Furthermore, barotrauma is a term that is also commonly used to indicate a lung injury caused by excessive airway pressures, so make sure to keep these important points in mind!

In case you were wondering where the term barotrauma came from, 'baro-' means 'weight or pressure.' Just think of how un'baro'ble the pressure in life can be sometimes!


What's also unbearable is the pain that can come from just about any inflammatory disorder of the ear or a disorder that encompasses inflammation. We have four such conditions to define that involve the middle ear. They are mastoiditis, otitis media, infectious myringitis, and eustachitis.

Mastoiditis is the inflammation of the mastoid bone, commonly as a result of a middle ear infection (otitis media), one that can cause everything from an earache to headache.

'Otitis' refers to an inflammation of the ear, where '-oto' means 'ear' and '-itis' means 'inflammation,' just like in mastoiditis. 'Media' refers to the middle ear and otitis media usually implies an infectious component is causing or contributing to the inflammatory process at hand.

An infection is most definitely a part of infectious myringitis, a contagious inflammatory condition affecting the eardrum commonly as a result of otitis media. 'Myringo-,' in 'myringitis,' is a prefix for the tympanic membrane, where 'tympano-' refers to the eardrum.

Inflammation is also found in eustachitis, the inflammation of the eustachian tube, the narrow passageway that connects the middle ear to the nasopharynx, which is itself the part of the throat closest to the back of the nasal passages. 'Naso-' means 'nose' and 'pharynx' means 'throat.'

Other Conditions

In cases where there is a condition where the normally closed eustachian tube stays abnormally open, at least intermittently so, we term this a patulous eustachian tube, where 'patulous' means 'open or expanded.' This condition can cause an unpleasant feeling in the middle ear and alter a person's hearing.

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