Me and My Ear: the pain and sorrow that was March 2010

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Summary: I've just went through all sorts of fun times with my ear causing me pain and other issues. This brief telling may count as a warning to the rest of you.

Friday, 19 March 2010

(23:16:59 CDT)

Me and My Ear: the pain and sorrow that was March 2010

Around January, my ears starting feeling painfully dry. I could soothe the beast a little bit by taking a Q-Tip, or maybe just my finger, and rubbing a little lotion into the edges of them, but it was a stop-gap at best. It especially seemed bad with my left ear, which gave me troubles with swimming (and is one of the reasons I stopped going underwater all that much).

A few days ago, I got smart: I bought sweet oil (which apparently is just olive oil). Heated it up to about body temp level, and put some drops in. First night, it was awesome. The next night (or well, the next night I put oil in, which might have been a day or two later), the right ear continues to feel awesome while the left ear immediate feels gummed up. I took a little curved bobby pin and felt around to see why (it sounds worse than it is: I was very much so just sticking to the mid ear and not touching the sides). I got a small but hard piece of ear wax out, and then it all went to crap.

Within an hour, my hearing in that ear was halved. My faced started to feel swollen. By the next day, I could hear this weird two-tone ringing. By the third day, I was starting to lose proximity sense and I had to keep a foam earplug in my ear to stop the ear canal from aching and feeling like it was going to close off. I would get vertigo spells. I would only take the plug out at night and sometimes wake up and put it back in to help balance the pressure. I would have to turn my head to hear people speak, sometimes (even without the earplug).

Normally I resist going to the doctor the way that most matter resists a force pressed upon it: inertia must be overcome. You know what, though, you hear a constant off-tone ringing in your ear for about 72 hours? You start overcoming inertia. I made an appointment for the next day. I had read stories online about burst eardrums and contact dermatitis and infections and ear maggots and so forth. I was getting nervous.

Well, here is the upshot. It was simply only, as in no infection or compounding sinuses, a piece of hard, dried out earwax pressed right up against my eardrum. Eww, right? Still, think about it. All that above, caused by a piece of material made by my body to protect the eardrum. A bodily function so automatic we mostly don't think about it. I guess that the sweet oil was just enough moisture to help it to move from where-ever it had been (probably blocking my ducts, which is why my ear had dried out) and fall back. It was continuously shoving against the drum and trapping air and moisture there. It sucked a lot. They got it out after a few minutes of working, and not only did my hearing come back, but it did so better than it has for who knows how long. My ear is still a little sore from the whole ordeal (if nothing else, there is part of my ear that has not been exposed to air for some time).

The reason I going into detail here is because I wanted to impart the following pieces of wisdom:

  • Earwax, alone, can cause tinnitus, swelling, dizziness, loss of proximity sense, and pain in the ear.
  • Tinnitus, by the way, just means ringing. A lot of people use the term as though it is a disease in and of itself. It is not. Like a headache, it is caused by something.
  • Even if you do use Q-tips or ear cleaners, hard wax can accumulate.
  • The best way to clean your ears is through body temperature water, possibly with a little bit of pressure.
  • If water gets trapped in your ears, it is probably worth having checked out. Something is possibly keeping it in there.
  • Actually burst eardrums involve lots of pain and bleeding. You will know about it.

I promise, my next post will have 100% less TMI.

UPDATE: Just wanted to add one thing real quick. My dad had bad hearing and ringing for a lot of his life. I wonder, now, if it was just earwax in his case, too?

Si Vales, Valeo


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Written by Doug Bolden

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