Sunday, August 14, 2016

Hygiene for the outer ear

Small children and infants are often aware of their ears when they get a head cold and end up with an earache.

Many air travellers become aware of their ears as the aeroplanes gain altitude, or descend from cruising altitude when the cabin air-pressure changes and eardrums begin to "pop".

But most of us go through life never thinking about our ears until we begin to lose our hearing!

From the diagram above there are two main areas of the hearing apparatus (classically we talk about three, but who's going to be picky) The two areas are:

  • From the Pinna where many people hook their glasses onto, to as far as the ear drum.
  • From the Ear drum to the inner end of the Eustacian Tube which open into the back of the nose.

Today I'm just concerned about the hygiene of the outer part of the ear from the ear drum out. For some reason, people like to stick things in their ears, most notorious of all are cotton buds. Many's the GP and ENT specialist who's had to retrieve the end of the bud when it comes unstuck with the external ear canal. Hair grips are another villain of the peace. These metal instruments can end up scratching the lining of the canal and allowing bacteria to get to places where they shouldn't get.

Why do people stick things in their external canals? Mainly to relieve an itch they find difficult to scratch. Many of such people also have dandruff of other eczema like conditions. For those people I suggest a trip to the local pharmacy to buy a mild Cortisone based cream. By wiping some of this with a finger tip into the external canal you can relieve the itch/scratch cycle and then there's no need for anything else. If itching persists then visit your Doc to get some appropriate ear drops.

Another reason people use cotton buds is to dry their ears! For these patients I recommend using a Tissue Spear to gently dry the external canal. These can easily be made by twisting the corner of a piece of tissue or toilet paper and making it into  a pears shape. That can then safely, and gently, be pushed into the canal and help dry the contents. If you want a bit of extra "oomph" then use a hair dryer (on low power) held about half a meter away from your ear. (Make sure it's not on HOT as that can prove to be extremely uncomfortable).

But prevention is better than cure so if you don't want to get water in your ear when showering etc, then use a plug of Blue-Tack - it's works like a dream!
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