A little bit of ear discomfort now and then does not worry most of us. But it can be an early symptom of something more serious. In children, the first signs of ear discomfort should warn parents that medical attention is required. Children are prone to ear infections and the symptoms are not always typical until the condition becomes serious. But for most adults, ear discomfort can often be easily remedied at home without the need for medical attention if it is not getting worse.
Nevertheless it is always advisable to seek medical attention for your ear problem. You should not try to manage the condition at home if it is very itchy, burning, painful or there is any ear discharge. However, the cause of occasional irritation can sometimes be minor and easily remedied by just making a few lifestyle changes. Remember that when it comes to children there should be no delay in seeking medical attention, no matter how minor the symptoms may be. These tips to prevent ear problems in children may be helpful.
Here is some basic information about the ear that may be helpful to know:
- The visible outer part of the ear is known as the pinna. Its shape helps it to direct sound waves into the ear canal.
- The ear canal runs from the visible hole (opening) to the ear drum.
- The eardrum is a thin membrane-like structure that vibrates in response to sound waves. It transmits sound to the middle ear.
- The pinna, ear canal and eardrum collectively form the external ear, or outer ear.
Do Not Touch The Ear With Anything
If you are experiencing ear discomfort you should avoid touching it altogether. Keep your fingers away, do not use cotton ear swabs, leave the earphones for couple of days and never insert a matchstick or hairpin inside the ear canal. The outer ear is much more delicate than what most of us think. The skin within the ear canal is soft and fragile although it is continuous with the skin on the rest of the body. What may be a minor problem can become complicated if you interfere with your ear. Avoid any physical or chemical interference and see a doctor if the problem persists or gets worse over time.
Stay Away From The Cotton Buds
Believe it or not, cotton buds (ear swabs) do not help your ear in any way. It is of course a better option then sticking a matchstick or hairpin in the ear but cotton buds cause more problems for the ear than many of us realize. If you are having ear problems then you should be particularly cautious about inserting cotton buds in your ear. Avoid it altogether. Remember that your ear canal has its own self-cleaning mechanism. Wax is not a bad thing. It protects your ear. Trying to clean your own ear with a cotton bud only strips it of the naturally-occurring wax and opens up the possibility of infections. In fact overuse of cotton buds may be the cause of the ear irritation that you are currently experiencing.
Do Not Get The Ear Canal Wet
Inserting water into your ear canal in order to clean it is not at all helpful. You can make the problem even worse, especially if you use soapy water. The skin lining the ear canal is delicate and easily irritated. Soap and even plain water are known irritants. If you are having an ear problem, then try to avoid the swimming pool and be careful when bathing. Ear plugs are helpful but make sure that you use good quality plugs which mold comfortably to your ear and is water tight. A simple home solution is to use cotton wool and petroleum jelly to block the ear canal while bathing but this will not remain in place when swimming. If you are using a shower cap then try to pull it over your ears.
Use One Or Two Drops Of Oil
Dryness of the skin in the ear canal, often due to a lack earwax, is a common cause of ear discomfort. Although you should not put anything in your ear, there are some exceptions to the rule. If you ear seems to be very dry, try one or two drops of olive oil. Over-the-counter ear drops may also be helpful but first discuss it with your doctor or pharmacist. Do not try to “flood” the ear canal with oil. Speak to your doctor before you do this though. Sometimes the oil can travel into your middle ear if you have a perforated eardrum. Do not depend on olive oil to remedy your problem if your symptoms persist or worsen.
Wash Your Hands Thoroughly
While you should make a concerted effort not to interfere with your ear, it is not always possible if you do not realize that you are doing it. Most of us touch our ear unconsciously. For this reason it is important to take some precautions when it comes to your hands. You may be transferring chemical irritants and microbes to your ear every time you touch it. Our hands are one of the main ways that most irritants and microbes enter the orifices of our body. Wash your hands regularly and make sure that you are thorough. Use an antimicrobial soap. Smokers should be particularly thorough about washing their hands. The tobacco residue lingers on the hands and can irritate the ear canal lining.
Rethink Your Hair Style And Length
If you are experiencing repeated outer ear problems be it mild discomfort or severe pain, then you should reconsider your hair style. The length of your hair is equally important. Dust, dirt, microbes and chemicals from shampoo and bleaching agents can easily enter the ear canal if your hair is too long and able to reach your ear opening. This does not necessarily mean that you have to cut your hair very short. Rather look at ways of keeping your hair away from your ears. Also be careful about the type of hair care products that use. Hair dye, styling gel, hair spray and other products may be fine for the hair but can pose a problem for the delicate lining of the ear canal.