Care of ears

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Ears subject to infection

You have an infection in your outer or middle ear and treatment for this will not be effective unless you take special care of your ears at home. This means you must not allow any water (from bathing, showering or washing hair) to get into your ears, or this may either keep the infection going, or to cause it to flare up again. You can protect your ears by putting a large plug of cotton wool smeared on the inside with Vaseline which sits in the hollow of the ear. Alternatively a commercial ear plug obtainable from chemists may be used.

Ear drops

When putting in the drops, have the ear opening pointing upwards, and pull the fleshy part (pinna) up and back to straighten up the ear cannel and form a funnel. Apply the drops one at a time to the back wall so that as they enter air may exit in front. Finally, gently pump the little flap (tragus) in front of the ear opening to ensure that the drops get right down to the ear drum.

Dealing with ear wax

Wax in the ear canal is normal and rarely on its own causes deafness or discomfort. Part of its function is to protect the thin and delicate skin. The main reason for removing it is for a doctor to be able to see the ear drum easily. Do not use cotton buds as these tend to impact the wax further down the ear canal – rather like loading an old cannon with a ramrod!

Syringing is safe in experienced hands but do not have your ears syringed if; you have grommets, have or have had a perforated ear drum or mastoid operation or suffer from ear infections or eczema of the ears. Fast acting wax dissolvers purchased from chemists may work, but can cause irritation or even an allergic reaction in the ear (e.g. Cerumol or Xerumenex).

Recommended method

Olive oil (Sodium Bicarbonate & Waxol ear drops are alternatives) is much safer:

  • Fill the ear canal last thing at night with warm olive oil using the technique advised for “Ear Drops” opposite.
  • Plug the hollow of the ear afterwards to prevent soiling of the bedding, and throw this away in the morning and mop out any liquid wax from the ear opening.
  • Repeat nightly for 1 or 2 weeks until the ear feels clear of until the specialist can suction out the softened wax.