Friday, July 29, 2005

I turn to you in this sticky situation

and request your expert assistance on a topic about which I know little, but I am having to learn.

P has ear wax issues. It is often clumpy and dry. It tends to be profuse. And for a big guy, he has little ears, for what that matters.

Last Saturday as we frolicked in the pool, P pulled up and began wagging his ear. This continued all evening and we realized that it was clogged, perhaps with pool water inside.

His normal means if treatment is a Q-tip. This time, he pulled out a paperclip, too. I know, I know. Not the brightest bulb in the socket.

I declared a moratorium on both and pulled out the unopened bottle of Mack's I'd purchased months ago, however the box lacked the bulb pictured at the link. This stuff is very dilute peroxide (the O2 bubbles break up the wax) and glycerin (conditions the skin). P can hear the bubbles, but it hasn't worked well. I decided to up the ante and get the REAL peroxide, which rages bubbles and does a better job breaking up the wax.

B/c he has irritated the canal skin by messing with it so much, I suggested using some olive oil to help out the skin. Little did I know that it (or mineral or baby oil) is a prescribed treatment that helps the peroxide-broken wax get mobile to float out while it protects and conditions the skin.

P has had moments where he could hear since doing the Big Daddy Peroxide, but they were as fleeting as a premature ejaculator. The next step will be to purchase a bulb and flush the canal with warm water. I can see this one making him pee. I should try it while he's sleeping!

Too bad he doesn't have medical insurance. He'd be heading to a doctor with a microscope. Or I'll be making him so he'll shut his gob. Remember, my ear was clogged for unknown reasons from January to about May? I'm only so sympathetic.

Meanwhile, here are many links and gadgets I found that pertain to his situation. Although I tend toward the granola, I am confident that Ear Candles and Ear Cones are not lighting my fire, nor P's, any time soon.

Have you known of anyone to have problems to this extent? Have you known of someone with a compaction and how did they get it out? Anyone tried a prescription wax softener? Is it snake oil, too, or merely full strength peroxide?

Self Treatment For Earwax
Most cases of earwax blockage respond to home treatments used to soften wax if there is no hole in the eardrum. Patients can try placing a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or commercial ear wax removal drops, such as Debrox®, Mack's® Wax AwayTM, Murine®, or Physicians' ChoiceTM in the ear. These remedies are not as strong as the prescription wax softeners but are effective for many patients. Rarely, people have allergic reactions to commercial preparations. Detergent drops such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide may also aid in the removal of wax. Patients should know that rinsing the ear canal with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) results in oxygen bubbling off and water being left behind-wet, warm ear canals make good incubators for growth of bacteria. Flushing the ear canal with rubbing alcohol displaces the water and dries the canal skin. [This is an idea I'd missed, so it's being incorporated now.] If alcohol causes severe pain, it suggests the presence of an eardrum perforation.
Ear candles:
or coning:
cons to candles/coning: and

EarClear Irrigation Syringe - more controlled than using a bulb, I guess

Ototek Loop - stick it in the canal to fish out wax

Murine System: fluid and bulb

AuraClear: fluid and bulb
More specific details:
An ear can also get plugged up with earwax when fingers or objects are used to clean the ear canal. The finger or object may push earwax deeper into the ear canal and compact it. The inner portion of the ear canal lacks oil glands, so the compacted earwax is no longer coated with oil and hardens. This may cause a sudden loss of hearing or ear pain. In such situations, a healthcare provider should remove earwax. Removal of an earwax blockage will reverse the hearing loss and pain that it has caused.

Never try to remove earwax yourself with any type of instrument, such as a cotton tipped swab, car key, bobby pin, toothpick [or paper clip!], or high- pressure water spray. Such tools often cause injury to the ear canal and can perforate the eardrum. They may dislodge the small bones in the middle ear behind the eardrum. They can even damage the inner ear, causing permanent hearing loss.

Cerumen [Earwax] Impaction
Genesis: Cerumen impaction can be a result of ineffective attempts to remove earwax. This results from a common misconception about cotton-tipped applicators. When the patient inserts one of these into the ear and withdraws it, the brownish discoloration typical of cerumen can be seen. The assumption is that the total mass of cerumen has adhered to the applicator. Unfortunately, this is false. While a bit of cerumen does discolor the applicator, the bulk of the more solid mass of cerumen is rammed further into the ear by the applicator.

Ceruminokinesis is unable to move this harder wax, and the impaction begins. Continued cerumen production occurs between the impaction and the tympanic membrane, adding to the impacted mass. Physicians may discover impactions so well organized that they appear to resemble a cast of the inside of the ear when removed.
A cast. That's what I'm expecting from him. An ear canal cast in wax. We can bronze it, even, in the lost wax sculpting technique. Posterity, I say!

Edited to add: This pages gets a number of hits each day. Join in the discussion. Please share what has or hasn't worked for you! There are lots of people who would benefit.


Anonymous said...

Me and my brother both have ear wax problems (and bad sinuses). I have the ototek loop, I got mine at Walmart. It really does work good. You can run a q-tip around your ear, and think you got some stuff out and then use the ototek and it pulls it right out. I use it every few days.

I also do ear candles sometimes. I'm not sure if it works, but it makes my ears and sinuses feel better. The warm air just feels good in there, especially if your ears are bugging you.

Liz said...

I can't relate personally, but my oldest, when she was younger, used to stick those Barbie combs in her ear when they were itchy. When I took her to the pediatrician for an ear ache, they put her head in the sink and did a warm water wash until the plastic fell out. Maybe if you have a hand held shower head, a gentle spray can be held in the ear?

Ron Southern said...

You seem to have already tried or at least heard of every imaginable cure. I've tried many of them, but because I sometimes get a stopped ear in the middle of the night or during a holiday, I found that the bulb alone (plus some dilute peroxide, for its antiseptic effect) worked as well as anything. It sometimes worked right away, othertimes required trying it again later. My ear canal is apparently not sensitive, so exercising a reasonable degree of caution usually worked for me. Twice in my life, I gave in the aggravation/dizziness of it all and went for medical help (once to a nurse, once the doctor at a non-hospital emergency clinic). In each of those cases, they used variations of the bulb method to clear my wax. Everybody's different, though, I guess, and you should be careful, whatever your method.

Anonymous said...

Delurking. My ex had this problem, and used some OTC drops - I think they were called E.A.R. or something similar. He would put them in and lay on his side for 30 minutes while they soaked in, then use a bulb syringe. It was amazing the amount of crud that would come out.

Good luck to P. I enjoy your blog very much.

Cricket said...

The saga continues. Thanks for the suggestions.

I went to Walmart, but they didn't have the ototek loop at that location. Bummer. I did get a bulb and homeopathic drops. I've done both several times. He likes the bulb and it seems to help his hearing, but the effects don't last long. I've yet to see a clump sorked free.

Yesterday, he decided to go en plein air (funny guy) all day - no bulb, cotton, or drops. He said that, this morning, a big clump worked out, but not enough.

As of yesterday, he'd decided to go to a dr. In fact, he decided to try an ENT. I'm glad, b/c I can't fathom someone doing a bulb wash would be better than what we've tried. An ENT would dig around and use a microscope.

I'd gotten a little flashlight to peer inside, but I can't see anything - it is all too far in.

He has a job interview on Wednesday; I wish he'd do something before then.

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