Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ear Wash

What the heck, Chuck! You start a new blog, just to talk about washing your ears? I do that daily!

Yeah, so do I. Generally. But that's not what this is about.

This is a bit of a story, so settle in for a bit.

15 years or so ago, I came back from one of my twice / year visits to the dentist. 2 hours - yes 2 hours of torture - scraping - the dental assistant using a "tooth pick" that looked like something out of the move Marathon Man. But, it was all in the interests of taking care of my teeth, so I endured.

Got home, tired and ready for a beer.

Got up the next morning, and I had a tooth ache I couldn't believe. It started at the front of my cheek, and ran all the way back to my ear. Made an emergency dentist appointment, and he checked me out very thoroughly. Extra X-Rays - more $$$ down the drain.

No tooth problem.

Went home, took aspirin, applied a compress for 1/2 hour or so. That made it feel a bit better, so I knocked off for the day, and went swimming. Sometimes, an hour in the pool makes me better, and this did just that. Came home, no pain.

Had still more X-Rays 6 months later, again nothing found. My teeth, full of several dozen fillings, were in solid shape for all the metal and plastic in them. My dentist then introduced me to the electric toothbrush, which will be my next tale.

Maybe a couple years later, I thought that I was dying. This time, pain over the top of my head. Now, all my life I've heard about migraine headaches, so I figured that was what I was feeling, but I knew that a migraine like this had to be bad news.

I went to my doctor, and he couldn't find anything wrong, but for my peace of mind he recommended a CAT scan.
Maybe a brain tumour, but I really don't think so.


That was an experience. Lying flat on my back, on a cold metal table, wearing a legendary medical gown, with my head, neck, and shoulders stuck into a cylindrical metal coffin for 1/2 hour. Again, for my peace of mind - again, I endured - and again, no findings.

And again, the pain went away after a few hours. It was warm weather, so I went swimming again, and felt better.

Any yet a couple more years, and one day my whole face was numb.
OK, now I'm having a stroke.
So right to the emergency room I went.

This time, I got lucky. I spent 10 minutes going over my history with a very smart doctor. I'm a network troubleshooter, and pretty good at what I do from time to time. I drew on my professional experience, used my ability to gather and organise details, and fed the doctor the details, objectively and succinctly. He looked at me, and pulled out his flashlight.

And he stood next to me, and stuck the flashlight in my ear and looked for a very few seconds. And that was all he needed.

He scribbled a note and told me to go to the pharmacy and get Debrox, and make an appointment at the Ear Wash Clinic. Long story somewhat shorter, a week later a nurse took a foot long syringe that held about a pint of water, stuck it in my ear, and washed it.

The first thing I remember feeling, after the washing was done, was the buzzing or ringing in my ears. And no pain. And the nurse showed me what had come out of my ears. I won't describe it, but there was a lot of it.

Now California is a dry and dusty state, and the nurse told me that a lot of patients come in to the clinic 2 - 3 times / year, just for an ear wash. My experiences weren't at all unusual.

Anyway, with the CAT scan, dentist visit / X-Rays, and the ER visit, I spent well over $1,000. Nowadays, you'll probably spend twice that.

Debrox is maybe $10. A bottle lasts a year or so, and knowing what the need for a wash feels like, when I feel the need, I knock off for the day, pull out the bottle, and take an hour or so alternately soaking and syringing my ears.

If I'd do this monthly, it would be better. I'm trying to get into a schedule.

The feeling of pain relief, when I do the washing successfully, is exquisite. The noise level afterwards is really interesting, and shows how much hearing loss I endure, before remembering what I should be doing every month.

Start by taking a soup bowl, filled with water, and microwave on high for a minute. That's what you flush the ear with, after you drain the fluid.

After you start the microwave, soak one ear with fluid, but don't soak the ear too long. You take the bottle, stick the end of the nozzle into your ear just far enough so the fluid, when the bottle is squeezed, runs directly into the ear canal (not into the outer ear), and just let enough into the ear so you feel it going in there. The instructions say "5 - 10 drops".

You should hear noise - crackling and popping (OK, this isn't a Rice Krispies commercial). A minute or so later, when the noise stops, it's time to drain the fluid - just tilt your head and let it run out onto a towel.

When the water that you just warmed in the microwave is cool enough to stick your fingers into, take the syringe (generally a cheap plastic bulb syringe, not a medical one), squeeze it and fill with water, hold your head over the sink, and squirt the water into your ear. Do 3 - 4 syringes of water.

If you don't feel immediate relief, repeat with the 5 - 10 drops of fluid and another syringing.

A caveat - do not soak the ear with fluid very long. When the noise stops, the waxy ear contents will be very soft. If you keep it in your ear much longer, the stuff will form a solid plug in your ear, and you'll end up soaking and syringing repeatedly, for another hour, to break that down.

I generally forget this last detail every couple years, which is why I am writing this right now. Debrox instructions say to keep drops in ear for several minutes. I think that a single minute soaking, then a syringing, followed by another soaking and syringing, is a better idea.

YMMV.

More Information:

Earwax and Care

1 comment:

Roberto said...

I'm glad you mentioned the 'Medical Syringe', Chuck, because many people use them - AND, because of the additional pressure obtained with one, often perforate their ear drums - instant bigger problem!

Example? Moi! But, it was a young Intern who practiced on me. I've suffered for thirty years.