Otologists classify an ear canal as good if it has five characteristics. It must admit sound, allow for inspection, be easy to clean, not permit recurrent infections and should be large enough to accommodate a hearing aid. A stenotic ear canal can interfere with all those characteristics.
Stenotic Ear Canal
A stenotic ear canal occurs when the canal leading from the external ear to the middle ear is abnormally narrow. This can lead to complication like abnormal appearance of the visible ear and a tendency for the ear canal to become easily clogged. In some cases, the stenotic ear canal becomes so narrow that it can cause hearing loss.
A child can be born with a stenotic ear canal. If a person experiences chronic inflammation of her ear canal, it could narrow over time. Surgery within the ear canal can lead to the development of scar tissue that leads to the narrowing of the canal. A person could also develop an osteoma, a bony growth within the ear canal that slowly leads to an abrupt narrowing of the canal.
A doctor can diagnose a stenotic ear canal by viewing it, either through external examination or with an otoscope if the narrowing takes place deeper within the canal. He can also use a patient's medical history, like a record of ear infections or inflammation or a recent surgery, to determine the cause of the stenosis, according to "Restitutional Surgery of the Ear and Temporal Bone."
Treatment of a stenotic ear canal depends on the cause of the stenosis. Surgery can widen a narrow canal. A surgeon removes extra tissue or built-up scar tissue, leaving the canal a wider size. For an osteoma, a surgeon will need to chisel away the protruding bony growth to remove it, then cover the area with a small skin graft, according to "Surgery of the Ear and Temporal Bone."
A stenotic ear canal that does not cause hearing loss can other complications. A person with a narrow ear canal can experience blockages with earwax more easily than a person with a normal canal. This can lead to other complications, like increased risk for ear infection. Older adults with stenotic ear canals might not be able to wear a hearing aid comfortably.