Department of Otolaryngology

Conditions We Treat

The following are some of the many hearing conditions and ear diseases we treat at the UPMC Ear and Hearing Center:

Condition Description
Acoustic neuroma​ This type of noncancerous (benign) tumor is one of the most common growths within the ear. It can lead to gradual hearing loss, ringing in the ears, and loss of equilibrium.
Cholesteatoma​ A cholesteatoma is a growth of skin that forms a cyst. It can lead to recurring infections of the ear and surrounding bone and cause hearing loss, dizziness, and facial weakness.​
Conductive hearing loss​

This condition occurs when sound vibration cannot progress from the outer ear to the inner ear.

Causes may include wax in the ear canal, a hole (perforation) in the eardrum, or problems with the small bones of hearing in the middle ear (ossicular chain). The source may be from trauma, erosion from infection, or restricted movement from fixation or scarring.​

Ear and temporal bone cancer Cancer can develop in the ear canal or in the deeper structures within the temporal bone. Cancers from the parotid gland (salivary glands located between the ear and jaw) or adjacent structures can also invade the ear.​
Ear infections​

Acute ear infections — also known as acute otitis media — are common causes of ear pain, ear drainage, and hearing loss. Fluid can persist behind the eardrum following an acute infection or after an air flight.

Chronic ear infections have been present for more than three months and may be accompanied by the development of a cholesteatoma.​

Eardrum perforations​

A hole in the eardrum can occur following acute or chronic ear infections, symptoms associated with cholesteatoma, removal of ventilation tubes, or trauma. Symptoms may include repeated ear infections, pain, drainage from the ear, and hearing loss.

Surgical repair of the eardrum perforation is often necessary to avoid future infections and improve hearing.

Facial weakness and paralysis​

One of the most common causes of facial weakness is Bell’s palsy, a viral infection. Other causes of facial weakness or paralysis include trauma causing a fracture of the temporal bone, acute or chronic ear infections, and noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant) tumors.

It's important to see a doctor evaluate within several days of the onset of facial weakness because treatment is often most effective when initiated early.

Glomus tumor​ This benign growth in the middle ear or skull base causes local bone destruction, ear fullness, and often pulsatile tinnitus (sounds of blood flow in rhythm with the heart beat). Hearing loss is also common. Occasional voice and shoulder weakness may develop.
Hearing loss​ There are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural (“nerve loss”), and mixed (a combination of the two). The type and severity will determine our approach to treating your hearing loss, which may include observation, hearing aid amplification, or surgery.​
Otitis externa​ (swimmer's ear) This is usually a bacterial infection initiated by a scratch or trauma to the ear canal and exposure to contaminated water or external humidity. Less commonly, infections in this location may be secondary to fungal invasion of the ear canal.​
Otitis media​ This is an inflammation of the middle ear, especially common among children. Antibiotics often provide relief. In cases where antibiotics fail, doctors can perform a myringotomy to drain fluid or insert a ventilation tube in the middle ear to maintain aeration.​
Otosclerosis​ This progressive hereditary condition of the temporal bone can result in conductive, and rarely, nerve hearing loss. The stapes bone becomes fixed, which limits sound vibrations from reaching the inner ear. Treatments for the resulting hearing loss may be a hearing aid or stapedectomy surgery.​
Skull base tumors

Various noncancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant)​ tumors — including acoustic neuromas, glomus tumors, and squamous cell carcinomas — may develop in the bone located at the base of the skull.

Surgical treatment of these tumors often includes a multidisciplinary approach with a UPMC neurosurgeon or head and neck cancer surgeon. We may also consult with radiation oncologists and oncologists to use radiation and/or chemotherapy to treat skull base tumors.

Sudden hearing loss​

Sudden hearing loss occurs over a short time (1 to 2 days). Potential causes include wax impaction in the ear canal or fluid behind the eardrum. Evaluation of sudden hearing loss includes a hearing test and a potential imaging study, such as an MRI.

Occasionally, problems in the inner ear can cause a sudden “nerve-type” hearing loss. Treatment for sudden nerve hearing loss is often more effective when initiated early, so it's beneficial to see a doctor within several days if you experience a sudden change in hearing.​


There are multiple causes of tinnitus — a common problem that affects about 44 million Americans. People with tinnitus hear ringing in their ears, but there is no corresponding external source of the noise.

Although there is currently no cure for tinnitus, our experts at the Ear and Hearing Center work with UPMC audiologists to offer a variety of medical and acoustic tinnitus treatment options.

Wax impactions​ Cerumen (ear wax) is made by the special glands of the ear canal. Excessive wax accumulation may obstruct the ear canal and cause hearing loss. Doctors gently remove the wax from the ear canal using an ear microscope and special instruments.​