The body has its own protective mechanisms, and one of these is the ear wax. The skin in the ear produces an oily, waxy substance known as cerumen. This is produced to help protect the ear from the dust and the microorganisms that it is constantly subjected to. What happens is this earwax is naturally removed from the ear as it gets washed away through the ear canal that opens to the outside. However, in some cases, where there is excessive production of wax, it can harden and cause a blockage. Read on to know more about how this ear wax builds up, how it may cause blockage, and how to get rid of it.
Buildup: As noted, the ear wax is a natural protective mechanism to keep dust and bacteria from entering the ear canal which is a very critical organ. The middle ear is responsible for maintaining overall body balance. However, in some people, more wax is produced than what gets removed. Also, due to the recurrent use of earphones and earbuds, the wax can get pushed deeper. The earphones also could block the wax from getting out of the ear canal.
Excessive ear wax can lead to the following:
It is important to know that trying to remove ear wax at home should be avoided, as they can push the wax internally and cause more severe problems. These above symptoms could be indicative of various other problems in the ear and so should be immediately attended to by a medical doctor. Those who use hearing aids may also face the problem of excessive wax buildup.
Removal: As mentioned above, removal should not be done at home. This is true especially for young children and the elderly.
As the next step, clinical removal may be required. Those who are prone to excessive wax buildup may go for an annual or biannual wax removal. This could include irrigation and use of suction or curette to remove the wax. Ear wax, though not very pleasant, has a role to play in the ear’s health and small amounts of it is beneficial.
Ear problems can strike any individual of any age, and be very troublesome. It can even impair normal life. However, children are especially vulnerable to these and all diseases because their immune systems have not developed to full strength yet. There are several kinds of ear diseases that may affect children.
Which is the most common type of ear ailment that affects children?
The human ear has three parts: the inside, the middle and the outside. Children are most prone to acquiring diseases of the middle ear that can impede their hearing temporarily or permanently. The liquid is accumulated in this part of the ear in affected children. Along with mild deafness, related trouble like a pain in the ear may also be caused. Antibiotics are the most common treatment in these cases.
Symptoms: What gives away hidden ear disease in children?
Ear diseases are difficult to detect in children, as the middle ear is not visible with the naked eye, and children most often do not complain of pain there. These symptoms are helpful in detecting if there really is a problem-
• Pain in the ears
• The pain inside the head
• Liquid coming out of the ear
• Losing the will to eat
• Difficulty hearing
The most common childhood hearing ailments-
Following are the (hidden) ear diseases that affect the most number of infants and children-
• Acute otitis media - This is a severe infection of the middle ear, causing pain and irritation there. Fluid discharges are also common. The child should be taken to visit an Ear-Nose-Throat specialist. They will treat her/him with antibiotics, as the underlying cause is mostly bacteria.
• Otitis media with effusion - This occurs after an ear infection is generally over, and the child does not feel any discomfort. However, the doctor senses fluid build up and infections still present in the ear. This condition mostly heals on its own.
• Congenital hearing loss - The child may have been born with hearing loss. This happens if congenital hearing loss runs in the family, or if the mother had major diseases like diabetes. Another possibility of hearing loss is that the baby may have been born with disorders of the brain or the nervous system.
• Acquired hearing loss - The child may develop hearing loss in her/his lifetime due to reasons like chicken pox, influenza or serious damage to the head.
Hearing loss or ear diseases are somewhat common across age and generations of people, but they also can hinder your normal functioning. If you suspect your child has one, you should take her/him to a specialist immediately and try to test if she/he has any of the above disorders.
Tympanic Membrane, commonly known as eardrum, divides external parts of the ear (consisting of Pinna or Auricle and External Auditory Cavity) and the middle ear (Tympanic cavity). The function of the Tympanic Membrane is to transmit the sound of air via ossicles of the middle ear to the oval window in the cochlea. It converts and amplifies vibration in air to the vibration in fluid.
An eardrum rupture is a small hole or tear in the thin tissue which divides the external ear canal and middle ear. A person with a ruptured eardrum may feel a clap of thunder or earache. This may also lead to hearing loss. An eardrum rupture is also known as a perforated eardrum or punctured eardrum.
Causes of Rupture Eardrum:
There are many causes of ruptured eardrums, and some of the most common causes are listed below:
Infections are one of the most common causes of ruptured eardrums. During an ear infection, the fluid accumulates in the ear, which builds pressure causing a tear of Tympanic Membrane.
Change in Pressure:
Activities that cause pressure changes in the ear may lead to a rupture in the eardrum. It is called Barotrauma. This mainly happens when the pressure of the external ear is drastically different from the inner ear.
Activities which may cause Barotrauma are:
Flying in an aeroplane
Driving at high altitudes
Forceful and direct impact to the ear
Ear injuries may also perforate the eardrums. Any ear injury or head injury on the side of the ear may break the Tympanic Membrane and lead to ruptured eardrums. Injuries that may harm eardrums are:
Getting hit in the ear
Injuries in which a person falls on his/her ears
Ear injuries during sports
Damage to the ear due to noise or loud sounds can also rupture the eardrum. However, the evidence of this is yet to be found.
Other causes include skull fractures, foreign objects, and severe head trauma.
Symptoms of Rupture Eardrum:
Pus or blood released from the ear
Diagnosis for Eardrum Rupture:
Otoscope Exam: In this type of examination, doctors use specialised instruments with light to see the ear canal.
Audiology Exam: In this type of examination, doctors test the hearing range and capacity of the person.
Tympanometry: In this type of test, doctors insert a tympanometer into the eardrum to check the ear responses on pressure change.
Treatment of Rupture Eardrum:
There are many treatment options available for rupture eardrum. Doctors advise these treatments depending upon the severity and condition to provide relief from pain, eliminate infection, and prevent hearing loss in future. Some of the treatments are listed below:
If the condition is not critical, doctors usually prescribe medicines to the patient. These medicines help to clear up the infection and protect a person from developing a perforated eardrum. Doctors may also prescribe some ear drops along with medication.
In this type of treatment, doctors place a medicated patch on the eardrum. This patch encourages tears to heal and grow back together.
Ruptured eardrum can be easily cured with these two methods of treatment. However, in rare cases, doctors recommend surgery to patch the tear. This type of surgery is known as Tympanoplasty. In this method, the surgeon takes a part of tissue and grafts it over the tear of the eardrum.
Above are some of the common methods of treating ruptured eardrums. However, it is always advisable to consult a doctor before reaching any conclusion. Also, taking some preventive measures like keeping ears dry, clean, infection free, etc. can help a person protect his/her ears from being punctured or ruptured. Do not insert anything inside the ear canal in an attempt to clean ear wax.