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Archive for the ‘Ear’ Category

ear wax buildup, hearing

I’m writing about a subject that may not be too appealing or romantic, but it’s something that pretty much affects all of us. I recently wrote about hearing loss and mentioned that a frequent cause of this was from blockage due to ear wax, also called cerumen.

Ear wax is actually not a wax but a mixture of skin cells and oil secreted by glands in the ear canal. Its purpose is to lubricate and protect the sensitive lining of the canal. It has some antimicrobial properties which means it can help to fight off infections.

Most of the time cerumen has a tendency, due to chewing and jaw movements, to move to the opening of the ear where it dries up and flakes out of the ear and disappears, causing us no problems.

When an ear canal is blocked up with cerumen, it is called an impaction. This can occur when one produces an overabundance of ear wax.Another cause of impaction is from the use of a Q Tip which more often than not forces the cerumen deeper into the ear canal rather than cleaning it out. The use of a Q-Tip can also scratch your ear canal and cause an infection. This is why it’s often said not to stick anything in your ear “smaller than your elbow”.

With a cerumen impaction, you will most likely feel a pressure sensation in your ear canal and usually some degree of hearing loss. These are the symptoms that will usually cause a patient to see their doctor.

Once your doctor looks in your ear and verifies the wax blockage he or she has several options to remove it. The most common method used is to flush out the ear with pressurized water. Another method your doctor may use is to take a small wire instrument and, under direct vision, remove the wax manually

There are ear wax removal kits found at pharmacies that contain wax softening drops and a bulb syringe to flush out the ear. Although not always successful, they’re probably worth a try.

I advise my patients after the wax has been removed, to do some home therapy to prevent further wax buildup. Once a week, perhaps when bathing, they should flush out their ears with luke warm water, using a common rubber bulb syringe found at any pharmacy. This method should clean out any wax before it accumulates.

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Hearing loss

Are you having difficulty understanding words in a conversation, or turning up the volume on your TV, or asking people to repeat themselves when speaking to you, or even avoiding conversations and social gatherings?

If so, you are likely suffering from hearing loss. Up to one third of those between the ages of 65 to 75 and one half of those over 75, have some degree of hearing loss.

Hearing loss can occur for a number of reasons:

– Prolonged exposure to loud noise which damages the very sensitive inner ear nerves.

– Earwax which can build up in the ear canal and form a physical barrier blocking sound waves from the inner ear.

– Ruptured eardrum from exposure to an explosive noise, from infection, or from damage such as sticking something in your ear, most commonly a Q-tip.

There are various risk factors leading to hearing loss including:

– Occupational or recreational noise.

– Advancing age.

– Heredity.

– Side effects of some medications.

– Result of infection such as meningitis or measles.

Treatments for hearing loss include:

– Removing earwax when indicated.

– Hearing aids.

– Cochlear implants for more severe hearing loss which involves a surgical procedure.

If you are suffering from hearing loss, I strongly urge you to consider a hearing aid. Many people are reluctant to use hearing aids. This may be due to a perceived negative stigma attached to hearing loss, or to expense, since hearing aids can be expensive and not covered by Medicare or most private insurances. Contrary to these fears, the use of hearing aids can significantly enhance social situations and provide a more enjoyable lifestyle. It may even delay early dementia.

Hearing aid technology has expanded by leaps and bounds over the past decade and there should be a hearing aid that is best suited to your particular hearing loss.

If you are having problems with your hearing make an appointment with a qualified audiologist and have a routine hearing test. From there you may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat doctor for treatment of a specific problem or the audiologist may be able to provide you with an appropriate hearing aid. Don’t put off what may be a life enhancing experience for you.

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