Posts for category: Otolaryngology
Contrary to what you might think, earwax is actually beneficial for protecting your ear from infection. It lubricates and keeps the ear canals clean of bacteria and dirt. Ears are typically self-cleaning, so you shouldn’t have to clean your ears regularly (and in some cases ever); however, sometimes your ears can use a little help. If you are dealing with an earwax blockage, or you are prone to blockages, you will most certainly want to turn to an otolaryngologist to find out the cause of these recurring blockages and ways to keep your ears clean.
Most people use cotton swabs when they clean their ears. The problem with this is that it often serves the opposite purpose, and just pushes the wax further into the ear canal. Using a cotton swab inside the ear can also lead to damage to the ear canal or eardrum. Again, if earwax buildup is a common problem for you this is something you should talk to your ENT doctor about. A simple rule to follow: Cotton swabs should be off limits for cleaning your ears.
Cleaning Your Ears at Home
If you are dealing with a blockage you may be able to remove the earwax yourself with these gentle measures. First, you will want to soften the wax. There are over-the-counter products with a special glycerin solution that can help to breakdown the wax. You can also choose to fill an eyedropper with baby oil or hydrogen peroxide and apply a couple of drops into the ear.
You will want to leave the oil in your ear for up to two days before squirting warm water into the ear canal using a rubber syringe. Again, this syringe can be found as part of an over-the-counter wax removal kit at your local drugstore. Once you have rinsed out the ear make sure to use a towel to dry the outer part of the ear only. If you are prone to ear infections you may want to use a blow dryer to gently dry the ear.
Since everyone’s ears are shaped a little differently this means that the cleaning method that works well for one person might not work as well for another. If you have excess buildup of earwax you may notice:
- Ear pain
- Fullness or ringing in the ears
- Muffled hearing
If you wear a hearing aid you may be prone to earwax buildup, so it’s important that you talk with your ENT doctor about ways to reduce your chances for developing impacted earwax. In some cases, doctors may recommend coming in every six months or once a year so they can remove excess earwax safely and effectively without causing damage to the ears.
Nosebleeds happen to most of us at some point during our lifetime. While it can be startling, nosebleeds are typically harmless and nothing to worry about. Of course, if you battle nosebleeds rather regularly you may be wondering what’s going on and whether you should turn to an otolaryngologist for an evaluation. Here’s what you should know about getting a nosebleed.
Common Causes of a Nosebleed
The blood vessels within our nose are very delicate, which means that they are prone to bursting and causing nosebleeds. Therefore, the two most common causes of nosebleeds are nose picking and dry air. Dry air can dry out the nasal passages, which leaves the area prone to infection and cracking.
Other causes include:
- Repeated nose blowing
- Broken nose
- Acute or chronic sinusitis (a sinus infection)
- Common cold
- Certain allergy medications (these medications can dry out the nose)
- Traumatic injury to the nose
- Deviated septum
- Bleeding disorders
- High altitude
- Excessive use of blood thinners or anti-inflammatory medications
There are two main types of nosebleeds: anterior and posterior. An anterior nosebleed is a bleed that originates in the septum of the nose (the wall that separates the two nasal passages). These nosebleeds are minor and can be treated with home care. If your child experiences nosebleeds an anterior nosebleed is usually the cause.
Posterior nosebleeds occur further back in the nose where the artery branches are located. This type of nosebleed is much heavier, occurs more often in adults and may require medical care. While rare, it is possible for a posterior nosebleed to be a sign of high blood pressure or a blood disorder (e.g. hemophilia).
When to See a Doctor
While most people will be able to treat a simple nosebleed on their own without having to seek medical care, it’s important to see a doctor right away if:
- Your nosebleed is affecting your ability to breath
- Bleeding lasts more than 20 minutes
- Your nosebleed is the result of a traumatic injury or accident
- There is a significant amount of blood
While it’s not considered an emergency situation, it is a good idea to talk with your ENT doctor if you or your child experiences nosebleeds often. During an evaluation an ear, nose and throat doctor can ask you questions about your symptoms, perform a quick examination of the nose and determine the underlying cause of your persistent nosebleeds.
If you are concerned about you or your child’s nosebleeds then it’s best to play it safe and to schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist. Call our office today.
- Hear muffled speech or sounds
- Have a problem understanding individual words
- Need people to speak more loudly or slowly
- Have to turn up the television or radio
- Withdraw from social events or conversations
- Protect your ears by wearing earplugs or earmuffs if you are in a loud workplace
- Have your hearing tested by an audiologist or ENT specialist. Current recommendations are to have your hearing tested at least every 10 years through age 50, and every three years after age 50.
- Protect your ears from damaging loud noises in your daily activities and recreation, especially listening to rock concerts, shooting guns or riding in loud vehicles.
- Take breaks from continuous loud noises.
While swimmer’s ear may sound akin to having a lucky rabbit’s foot, the opposite is actually true. This painful condition, also known as acute otitis externa, causes infection and inflammation of the outer ear. As you may be able to guess from the name alone, this ear infection is often the result of too much water getting into the ears, whether you are an avid swimmer or you just drenched yourself in a hot shower for too long. Of course, there are other reasons why you may be prone to these infections.
Sure, this infection tends to be more common in children and teens, but if you happen to clean your ears regularly with cotton swabs, if you end up damaging or cutting the skin of the ear canal or if you’ve been diagnosed with eczema of the ear canal, then you too could be at risk for developing this type of ear infection.
Once the water is trapped inside the ear canal, it leaves the ear susceptible to bacteria and infection. If you have swimmer’s ear, you most likely know it because the inflammation causes pain. Since it is indeed an infection, it’s important that you turn to your otolaryngologist for proper medical attention. Not only will the treatment help eliminate your pain and discomfort but it will also stop the infection from spreading.
Besides pain, you may also notice that your ear feels as if there's fluid in it, which may also be drained. Since swimmer’s ear is an infection, you may also notice that the lymph nodes around the neck and ears are swollen. Some patients even report minor hearing loss. Of course, a young child can’t often describe their symptoms, but you may notice your little one tugging at their ear, unable to sleep, or more irritable and cranky. If you notice these symptoms then it’s time to take your child to the ENT doctor.
What can happen if swimmer’s ear isn’t treated properly? You may experience chronic or recurring infections. You may find that even if the condition clears up that your hearing loss has not fully returned. There may even be damage to the bones and cranial nerves.
When you come in to see your ENT specialist, they will most likely prescribe eardrops to treat the infection. They may also clean out the infected ear canal. These eardrops will serve to kill the bacteria and reduce pain and inflammation. Make sure to follow the instructions for your medication and continue to use it even once your symptoms have gone away, or according to what your physician has prescribed. This will ensure that all the bacteria are destroyed and that you won’t develop another infection.
Protect the health of your ears. If you think you may have swimmer’s ear, or if you are experiencing any kind of ear pain, it’s a good idea to play it safe and visit an ear, nose and throat specialist right away for care.