Thursday, June 28, 2007

Earwax: The way it's meant to be cleaned!

I was brushing up on my anatomy books and I've encountered the almighty cerumen. Then I remembered a whole lot of people coming to the emergency room, after they have tinkered their ear with a cotton bud and couldn't hear a thing.
Cerumen is produced in the outer third of the ear tube. Some might think this yellowish substance is ugly and disgusting - I have to agree! It's made of squalene, lanosterol, and cholesterol (Yes, I have to link you to get more info about it).
The good thing about this substance is that it protects our ear canal from bacteria, fungi and some insects.

Now, if your ear produces too much earwax, I believe it's time to teach you how to properly clear the excessive cerumen from your ear.
All you need is two cotton buds, one for each ear, a bar of (clean) soap and some alcohol (No, vodka or absynthe will not be used here - try those in the mouth cavity! - use 70% alcohol). Oh, and a mirror!

Usually this procedure is after taking a bath, so I suppose you're already cleaned up, but clean your hands with the soap anyway, use mild water. Take out a cotton bud from their case at a time, and pour some alcohol on them (do that over a sink), until they get soaked. Now look into the mirror insert the bud's head - UP TO AND ONLY THE HEAD WITH COTTON OVER IT!
The reason:
Humans have what we medical geeks call a "membrana tympanica" (prehistoric oompa loompa if you will - eardrum). Push that bud to the end and at the end you'll irritate or even tear it up, hence perforate it, which is a big bad no-no.
The effects of a perforation can be very bad, up to a total loss of hearing ability, or even ear infection if the affected ear is not treated and closed in a timely manner.
Continuing the cleaning process: The bud should be gently moved in a circled motion clockwise then anti-clockwise (move the whole hand and not just your wrist). Now remove it and clean the rest of the outer(outside of the ear canal) ear parts with the other end of the cotton bud.

Insect stuck in the ear: If your baby boy or girl got a fly stuck in their ear, I'd suggest to take the baby to a doctor, paediatrician. What the doctor will in turn do is get a syringe (just a warning: without the needle), fill it up with mild water and some drops of alcohol, turn the baby's head with the affected side to face down and insert the water slowly and gently until the insect is cleared. It's quite easy, but you need a steady hand and experience, because inexperienced persons might push the bug even deeper.

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