Con­nect­ing the Senses The Nose, Ears, and Po­ten­tial In­fec­tions

Alternative Medicine - - Condition Spotlight - BY HANA R. SOLOMON, MD BY FRED­ER­ICK ABE­LES, DDS

We can’t look in­side our own ears—but if we could, we would see that what goes on in the ears is in­ti­mately con­nected to the nose, and what goes on in the nose is in­ti­mately con­nected to the ears. Here’s how it works—and why it mat­ters. Three dis­tinct ar­eas make up the hu­man ear: the outer, mid­dle, and in­ner ear.

The ear canal is part of the outer ear. This is the part we can see, the part that can get blocked with ear wax, and the part that cap­tures sound from out­side the body. The ear canal car­ries sound to a thin, translu­cent mem­brane—the eardrum—which a med­i­cal provider can eas­ily ob­serve in a clin­i­cal set­ting when eval­u­at­ing a pos­si­ble ear in­fec­tion.

On the other side of the eardrum is the mid­dle ear, an air-filled cham­ber that con­tains the os­si­cles (three tiny bones all linked to­gether). When the eardrum vi­brates with sound com­ing from the ear canal, the os­si­cles pick up the vi­bra­tions and am­plify them, car­ry­ing them to the in­ner ear. The in­ner ear trans­lates those vi­bra­tions into elec­tri­cal sig­nals and sends them to the au­di­tory nerve, which is con­nected to the brain. When th­ese nerve im­pulses reach the brain, they’re in­ter­preted as sound. How do ear in­fec­tions in­volve the nose? Nasal health is crit­i­cal for healthy ears be­cause there is a di­rect con­nec­tion be­tween the mid­dle ear and the nose.

Just ask Molly, who was brought into my clinic af­ter both her mother and kinder­garten teacher ex­pressed con­cern that she was not pay­ing at­ten­tion in class. A quick screen in the of­fice in­di­cated a “con­duc­tive hear­ing loss.” Mom wanted to avoid med­i­ca­tions if pos­si­ble, so she agreed to try nasal rins­ing. Soon, Molly was wash­ing like a pro, and two weeks later the re­peat hear­ing test was nor­mal. A sim­ple and safe ap­proach re­solved her prob­lem.

Let’s ex­plore the rea­sons why such a sim­ple ap­proach is so ef­fec­tive.

For sound vi­bra­tions to send the sig­nals to the in­ner ear, the mid­dle part of the ear must be ven­ti­lated, al­low­ing the air pres­sure on ei­ther side of the eardrum to equal­ize. The Eus­tachian tube is re­spon­si­ble for this ven­ti­la­tion, and for drain­ing mu­cus from the mid­dle ear into the back of the throat.




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