Outer Ear Pathology Terms

Outer Ear Pathology Terms
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  • 00:00 Pathologies of the Outer Ear
  • 00:27 Ear Wax
  • 1:44 Inflammation & Infection
  • 3:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Besides ear wax, has anything else ever come out of your ear? If so, or if you're just wondering what can, then take a look here as we go over pathologies of the outer ear.

Pathologies of the Outer Ear

Ear wax. It's kind of disgusting. Actually, it's utterly disgusting in sight, smell, and according to some, taste. I swear I wouldn't know about the latter. I swear.

Ear wax is not the only thing to come out of your ear. Sometimes, pus will come out. Other times, blood will come out. Awesome, isn't it? And that's just the half of the pathologies the outer ear can experience. Let's define many of them.

Ear Wax

The funky word for ear wax is cerumen. I imagine a soft, brownish, waxy cow's rumen flowing out of my ear to remind me of that. Odd imagery, yes, but memorable.

Normally, earwax doesn't cause any problems. However, it can become impacted. Impacted cerumen is accumulated ear wax that has formed into a solid mass and has become stuck to the walls of the ear canal. 'Impacted' means that something is firmly wedged within or between something else. Sort of like when a bullet impacts a wall, it may bury itself and get stuck within the wall.

Accumulated ear wax can cause pain in the ear, otalgia, where 'oto-' means 'ear,' and '-algia' means 'pain.' For 'oto-,' I think of Otto. I remember it means ear by thinking of the headphones over Otto's (the character from the Simpsons) ears. For 'algia-,' think of algae writhing in pain.

What causes otalgia? Everything from the use of cotton swabs to clean out your ears, to the use of ear plugs, to people who simply have funky shapes to their ear canals that interfere with normal discharge of wax out of the ear. By the way, more commonly, otalgia is simply called an earache if you didn't guess that one already, of course.

Inflammation & Infection

Otalgia can stem from many other problems, not just impacted cerumen. This includes inflammation and infection.

Any inflammation of the ear is known as otitis, where '-itis' means 'inflammation.' Specifically, in the case of the outer ear, inflammation of the ear (the auricle and/or ear canal) is called otitis externa, or more commonly, just swimmer's ear. 'Auricle' is a word for the floppy things sticking out the side of your head, and 'externa' refers to the external or outer part of the ear. Commonly, otitis that involves the ear canal occurs as a result of an allergy or infection. Infection namely from bacteria or fungi.

More specifically, a fungal infection of the ear canal is called otomycosis, where '-mycosis' refers to a condition caused by fungi. If bacteria caused the discharge of pus out of the ear, then this is called otopyorrhea where 'pyo-' means 'pus' and '-rrhea' implies the profuse flow of something. Think: 'dia-rrhea' is the profuse flow of watery poop.

And if there is bleeding from the ear, mainly implying blood coming out of the ear canal, then this is called otorrhagia, where '-rrhagia' means 'excessive flow.' Think: '-rrhagia' is similar to rage, which is the excessive flow of negative emotion.

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