Tagged: cerumen

Nothing Smaller Than Your Elbow: Your Ear Canal is Self-cleaning!

February 1, 2016

Did your mother ever tell you, “don’t cross your eyes or they’ll get stuck that way”? Or, how about “don’t swallow your chewing gum, it takes seven years to pass through your digestive system.” What about, “don’t put anything in your ears that’s smaller than your elbow”? Unlike the first two, this old wives tale is actually true. There are some very delicate structures at the end of your ear canal, including the eardrum and the three smallest bones in the body, which are housed in the middle ear behind the eardrum. Cleaning your ears can potentially cause damage to the middle ear system. And, using cotton swabs, a hair pin or your house key to clean your ear canals might feel good or give you a sense of accomplishment but can actually cause earwax to become lodged in the far reaches of the ear canal, requiring removal by your physician or audiologist.

So, if I my elbow doesn’t fit, what do I use to clean my ear canals?

Believe it or not, your ear canals are self-cleaning. Glands in the ear canal produce oil and earwax (cerumen). These secretions are meant to coat the ear canal in order to prevent dryness, trap dirt and dust particles and they act as a natural bug repellant, too. The secretions will gradually move out of the ear canal on their own. If you must, you can use a home remedy of a 50/50 mixture of warm water and white vinegar dropped gently into the ear canal with a bulb syringe. If done regularly, this mixture can keep earwax from building up but may dry out the skin of some people. If you happen to have dry skin anyway, earwax and sloughing skin may stick to the canal wall if not managed regularly. A drop or two of olive oil or mineral oil placed in the ear canal each day can help earwax stay moist and will keep it moving in the right direction: out of your ear canal.

For those who wear a hearing aid, having the ear canals checked regularly by an audiologist is a great way to make sure excess wax doesn’t develop. The last thing you want is for wax to get in the way of sound getting through to the rest of the system. But let your provider take care of the wax and leave the cotton swabs for art projects, the hair pins for holding a ballerina’s bun and your house key for opening your mail. Your mother would be proud you did.

How to Take Care of Pesky Ear Wax!

August 24, 2015

 
There are some simple home treatments that help keep your ear canals clear of wax and keep your hearing aids from malfunctioning when too much wax builds up. Here are some suggestions to continue experiencing uninterrupted optimal hearing, with or without hearing aids.

First, a few words of caution:
If you happen to have a hole in your eardrum, should never put any solutions in the ear unless directed by a doctor to do so. Also, there is a possibility that cold liquids placed in the ears can cause dizziness, so warm any solution to body temperate by holding the bottle in a closed hand for a few minutes before putting the solution into the ear canal. It may be best to have a family member assist with putting the drops in the ear to make sure the right amount is placed in the canal.

For monthly maintenance care:

There are some very effective over-the-counter cerumen (earwax) softening drops available. Debrox, by Johnson&Johnson is an effective solution if you follow the instructions closely. Another option that your Audiologist will recommend is called Audiologists Choice eardrops. Both products contain carbamide peroxide, a thicker relative of hydrogen peroxide. Using hydrogen peroxide can change the pH balance of the ear canal and cause itching and irritation. Using this close relative to hydrogen peroxide is generally a better a choice if excessive earwax is an ongoing issue.

It is not recommend that you use a bulb syringe or any other device to flush out the ears. The wax will come out on its own using the proper agent and by just giving it time. Using water to flush the ears could be painful and ultimately, counter-productive as the water can cause the wax to block off the ear completely, causing pain, itching and possibly temporary hearing loss.

For monthly preventative maintenance, using a few drops of mineral oil once a week in each ear promotes good ear canal skin moisturizing and keeps itching away. Putting these drops in your ears should be done in the evening after taking hearing aids out of the ears to prevent plugging up of the aids with the oil.

Each time you come into the office we’ll check your ears to make sure your canals are free of excessive earwax and to insure that your hearing aids are clear of wax as well. Keeping your ear canals and hearing aids wax free will not only help with better hearing acuity, but will prevent costly repairs a to check and keeping you hearing what you want to hear. Please give the office a call if you’d like us to take a look at your ear canals or your hearing aids. We’d love to help!

Wax Is the Culprit!

August 17, 2015

People using hearing aids frequently blame the hearing aids themselves when a break down happens or when they aren’t working properly. It can be extremely frustrating when the darn things are whistling or plain not working at all. Amazingly enough, most hearing aid breakdowns can actually be blamed on your own ears! Wax build up in the ear canal can cause all kinds of problems for hearing aids as well as for hearing!

When there is excessive wax in the ear canal, it can produce a barrier for sound that comes from the hearing aid. The wax barrier makes the sound bounce back to the microphone on the hearing aid, causing an annoying whistling sound. Wax can also plug up the hearing aid speaker port and make the sound quality change or cause the aid to completely stop working. The thing is, the wax accumulation may “plug up” the sound but in every other way, the hearing aid can be working perfectly fine. So, you see, wax accumulation in your ears may be your high tech hearing aid’s biggest obstacle to obtaining great hearing!

So how do you fix the problem?

Many people try to solve this problem by cleaning their ears with Q-tips, bobby pins, match sticks, or other sharp, pointy and otherwise inappropriate instruments of torture. Most of the time they push the majority of the wax deeper into the ear canal while risking injury to the sensitive skin of the canal. Irritating the skin of the ear canal can cause a dermatitis that makes the ears itch. This causes the person to want to clean their ear canal again and continue to irritate the sensitive skin in the canal. And so the cycle continues. Follow your own mother’s advice, don’t stick anything in your ear that’s bigger than your elbow!

Look for advice on home treatments in an upcoming article!

What Is Earwax?

November 24, 2014

 
Earwax is a curious thing. Why do we have it? Do we need it? What’s its purpose? You may have wondered these things or if you haven’t, most any 9 year-old boy certainly has. Earwax is medically referred to as cerumen. It is produced by glands in the outer ear canal and its purpose is to trap dust and other small particles to keep them from travelling toward the eardrum and potentially causing irritation or damage. Normally, the wax dries up and falls out of the ear on its own, along with any trapped dust or debris. If it doesn’t, it can gradually build up over time and become impacted in the ear canal. It may then need to be removed by an audiologist or ear specialist.

Earwax Blockage
A complete blockage, or impaction of the ear canal by earwax can happen to anyone. The most common cause is from wax getting pushed deep within the ear canal by a q-tip or other object placed in the ear canal, such as bobby pins or car keys. Often, these objects push the earwax deeper into the ear canal. Those who wear hearing aids or earplugs are also more prone to having a complete blockage.

Earwax Symptoms
Earwax blockage can be associated with a number of symptoms that can be somewhat disturbing to the person experiencing them because often, the symptoms are sudden and generally do not accompany any other incident. The most common symptoms are decreased hearing, dizziness, pain in the ear and/or tinnitus (ringing in the ear).

Earwax Treatment
The easiest way to handle an earwax blockage is to try removing the wax yourself at home. The only time a “home remedy” shouldn’t be tried is if you have a hole in your eardrum or if an ear, nose and throat physician has placed a pressure equalization tube (PE tube) in the eardrum. The most common home remedy is an over-the-counter wax softener. The softener consists of a liquid called carbamide peroxide which will gradually soften the wax and help it move out of the ear canal. Another option is warmed mineral oil. When placed in the ear canal and allowed to sit, the earwax will soften, making it easier to remove. Or, it will make its way out on its own.

One of the “home remedies” that isn’t suggested is ear candling. Ear candles are hollow cones made of paraffin and beeswax. The tapered end is placed inside the ear canal and the other end is then set on fire. In theory, as the flame burns, a vacuum is created. The vacuum is meant to draw the wax out of the ear. There is no indication that the use of ear candles is successful in removing ear wax, but there is ample evidence that using this sort of home remedy can cause serious damage to your ear or ear canal or both.

When to Seek Medical Treatment
If you have tried a home remedy and haven’t seen a change in your symptoms, it may be time to seek medical treatment. Or, if you just don’t want to mess with the home remedies at all, a simple way to handle an earwax impaction is to see an audiologist or medical doctor. Either professional will be able to easily remove the wax for you. They may use a small plastic spoon called a curette, or remove the wax by irrigating the ear with warm water.

Preventing Earwax Impaction
Earwax impaction can be prevented by avoiding ear swabs or Q-tips and other objects that push the wax deeper into the ear canal. Use of mineral oil or olive oil in the ear canal regularly can also help to alleviate the possibility of earwax becoming lodged in the ear canal. If earwax impaction seems to be an ongoing problem or if you wear hearing aids, having a routine examination of the ear canal at least every six months is a good idea. Your audiologist or medical doctor can then keep a close eye on your earwax production and make sure that an impaction doesn’t occur in the future.

If you’re concerned about wax impaction, call our office. We’d be glad to help.