Ear Wax - A Novella

Thoughts and input on anything related to wet shaving or men's grooming.
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Red Bob
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Ear Wax - A Novella

Post by Red Bob » Fri May 26, 2006 9:04 pm

Chaps,

I have yet another grotesque issue that must be openly discussed, for I am not ashamed :oops: I have excessive cerumen production, the likes of which none have ever seen!

To combat the issue, I have always enjoyed jabbing a Q-tip down into the deep recesses of my ear canal, often to the point of wincing just prior to removal. Oh, what joy I receive when my twirling produces a nice, orangish-hued covering of wax on that snowy white tip of cotton! =P~

Has anyone tried these tools for use in self-cerumenectomy?

Dovo Ear Wax extractor
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Feather "PaRaDa" Ear Wax remover
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Last edited by Red Bob on Sat May 27, 2006 7:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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drmoss_ca
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Post by drmoss_ca » Sat May 27, 2006 4:03 am

"You should never put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow."

This should be printed as a government health warning on all Q-tips. I hate looking at eardrums that have had a Q-tip rammed through them. The ear drum has all the strength of a piece of wet tissue paper, and even if you think you are being careful not to insert the Q-tip too far, you have no idea how big a lump of hard wax you are pushing in front of the cotton bud - wax that will then push up against said eardrum. At best doing this simply acts like a ramrod, pushing the wax firmly into the innermost recesses of the ear canal, and making my job of removing it more interesting. Since the ramming leaves a nice concave surface to the impacted wax, I will know that you have done it and I will then proceed to educate you in the error of your ways.
Likewise, the popular myth that peroxide is good for cleaning ears has a danger - if some of it gets behind the wax, fizzes out some oxygen and pushes the wax into the narrow section halfway along the canal, any further oxygen release is going to apply pressure to the drum as it can't get past the wax now plugging the narrows.
Best thing is to put a couple of drops of baby oil in the ear at night if you are sure there is a problem, and do so for about a week. Then let someone with an otoscope syringe out the softened wax.
Most of all, ears are like - well, certain other places - and are supposed to be self-cleaning. Most wax will work its way out unaided and drop out of the ear in occasional small flakes. As soon as you attempt to improve upon nature you end up encouraging extra wax formation, the impaction of this wax deep in the canal, causing trauma to the canal (which is exquisitely painful when it gets infected), and tearing up your eardrum leaving you permanently deaf and probably vertiginous too.

Chris
"Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse."
Pierre-Simon de Laplace

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DEF
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Post by DEF » Sat May 27, 2006 5:01 am

Chris' advice is sensible, sound, and rooted in medical authority -- which is probably why most of us idiots will continue to ignore it. I shall strive to comply, but in the mean time, I have a peculiar memory from the Far East...

I lived in Japan back in 1990-91, and a thorough ear canal scraping was part of the standard package of services provided by barbers (along with shaving the peach fuzz from your forehead and the outer rims of your ears).

I am guilty of keeping my own ears fairly clean (a paperclip being the preferred tool), and so there was usually precious little left for the barber. So, in an attempt to prove that he was doing his job and providing a valuable service, my barber was pressed to insert his little bamboo spoon somewhere in the vicinity of my brain stem to find any offending material.

An odd twist on the whole thing is that he also was an insect collector, and his wall was covered with specimens of horned beetles. There was something very odd about having to look at all those dried carcasses pinned to the wall as this scratchy little bamboo implement scuttled around in my ear canal. After two such experiences, I told him that the ear cleaning was not needed.

I consider myself very lucky not to have come away from the experience with a ruptured ear drum.
Doug

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4hits
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Post by 4hits » Sat May 27, 2006 5:42 am

Def,

The best post I have ever read, anywhere :D :D

Thank you
Danl

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DEF
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Post by DEF » Sat May 27, 2006 5:49 am

Eh?! (Turning his one good ear.) Eh??! You'll need to speak up...

Just here to serve the public good! :lol:

To go off on a tangent for a moment: Experiences like that really do argue for study abroad. I took a year off college for my one big adventure abroad before proceeding with the middle-class American script, and I'm very glad I did. Encourage your young folks to see the world.

Now back to our topic: Ear insertions -- bad!
Doug

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Post by DEF » Sat May 27, 2006 7:03 am

Big Ren wrote:I don't know what it is about the ear canal, that we need to pick at it with cotton swabs despite the sensible warnings of those who know better. Perhaps it is an erogenous zone and we seek stimulation by Q-tip to experience eargasms. But after reading Chris' post, I'm going to try to stop.
Between those habits said to risk blindness and those said to risk deafness, it kind of makes you want to clean up your act! :lol:
Doug

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Post by Red Bob » Sat May 27, 2006 7:32 am

Good Dr. C. Moss, I greatly appreciate your kind words and sound advice.

I have actually tried using an ear candle, with moderate results. In one ear, a significant amount of "wax" was found upon opening the candle. The other ear........nothing. Who knows if it really works, for I have my doubts.
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Post by drmoss_ca » Sat May 27, 2006 7:47 am

Ear candling is flim-flam, pure and simple.

Chris
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Pierre-Simon de Laplace

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Post by Tye » Sat May 27, 2006 7:52 am

drmoss_ca wrote:Ear candling is flim-flam, pure and simple.

Chris
I thought flim-flam was a dessert you could get at a Mexican restaurant????

-Tye
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Post by phishkabob » Sat May 27, 2006 7:54 am

Although I am not a physician (like Dr. Moss), I am a doctoral Audiology student (hearing and balance). In the U.S., cerumen (ear wax) removal is considered within our scope of practice. Consequently, we are educated on the ins-and-outs of cerumen and different removal techniques. I must echo what Dr. Moss said, please do not touch your earwax or your ear canals. If you are going to use a q-tip, only use it on the external portions of your ear (not the canal). I STRONGLY recommend that you do not use any of the tools mentioned earlier in this post! You are going to cause abrasions/contusions on your ear canal walls, which can further lead to infection (I have seen this first hand). Most importantly, you can easily perforate your eardrum, which is always painful and sometimes leads to irreversible hearing loss (if the perforation is large enough and in the right place). Also, ear candles absolutely do not work!!! I assume the idea behind these candles is suction created through the burning candle. A burning candle does not create enough section to "suck out" your cerumen. Ear candles lead to burnt eardrums/canals and a wax build-up within the ear from the candle itself (again, I have seen this first hand). So please listen to what the medical and ear experts have said, and do NOT use these devices!!!

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Post by Tye » Sat May 27, 2006 8:03 am

So are products like Murex ear wax removal systems not recommended either? I've seen these in the stores. I don't have ear wax issues, but I know my father does and he said that this was what his PA at the VA told him to get. (which could be wrong, but you know how we sometimes here what we want to hear...no pun intended). Thanks gentlemen.

-Tye
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Post by phishkabob » Sat May 27, 2006 8:34 am

Tye- I am not familiar with Murex. If it is a ceruminolytic agent (drops used to soften ear wax), it is fine. I prefer "Debrox" as it is oil based (it works better than those agents that are water based) and I have a lot of experience with it. Debrox can be purchased at your local drug store. If your father received advice through the VA, I would highly value what they have said. The VA typically employs excellent ENTs and Audiologists, for many veterans have hearing loss and ear-related conditions.

Ren- You are certainly not doomed! Although theories exist describing a genetics-related predisposition to noise-induced hearing loss and/or presbycusis (age-related hearing loss), there are many things you can do to preserve your hearing. Most importantly, you should always use ear protection when you are around loud sounds. This means wearing earplugs while mowing the lawn, shooting firearms, doing woodwork, etc. Ear protection is the single most important tool you have in hearing preservation. Noise-induced hearing loss is extremely common and a lot more detrimental to one's social well-being than most people realize. There is a lot of debate within the hearing sciences related to the inevitability of presbycusis. I have seen/tested 95 year olds who have had perfect hearing, so I personally do not feel age-related hearing loss is unavoidable. It seems that hearing loss with aging is closely related to environmental factors (diet, smoking, etc.), health factors (kidney disease, diabetes, blood pressure, medications, etc.), and to a small extent genetics. The cochlea is very sensitive to changes in blood chemistry and environmental factors. My best advice would be to wear hearing protection (when needed) and to stay healthy (keep your blood pressure and blood sugar levels in check). I hope this helps.

Sam

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Post by Tye » Sat May 27, 2006 8:38 am

Sam-
Thankyou for the quick reply. If I remember correctly, Murex is drop based and there is a bulb you fill with warm water to flush the ear after the wax has been softened. I'll have to ask dad and see if he's tried it and what the results were (if any). Thanks again.

-Tye
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Post by Red Bob » Sat May 27, 2006 9:26 am

Aye, no more q-tips for me, either, although I will have trouble breaking the habit each time my ear itches.

I have recommended Debrox to folks in the past, never realizing I should be using the same product instead of my beloved q-tip :oops: Cerumenex is another product used to soften and loosen the wax to facilitate removal w/ warm water.

Why I have never considered taking my own advice/recs is another mystery I will have to pursue :?
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Post by phishkabob » Sat May 27, 2006 10:18 am

One more thing,

Please remember that ear wax is normal and there for a reason. Items like Debrox should only be used with ear canal occlusion and as indicated by your healthcare professional. Ear wax is there for a reason! It has anti-fungal/anti-microbial properties, and as stated by Dr. Moss, the ear is self-cleaning. If you leave your ear alone, it will take care of itself.

Ren- Your dad's hearing aid adaptation is occurring in his brain, not in his ear. Please let your father know that it is extremely important that he wear his hearing aids during waking hours as much as possible (not when sleeping or when his ears are wet). It can take several months for the brain to acclimate to hearing aids. If he can get past this initial phase, he should have much greater success with his aids.

Sam

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Post by drmoss_ca » Sat May 27, 2006 11:46 am

Hearing protection is a must. I am completely deaf in my left ear and have about 50% in my right (from streptomycin in childhood given for, ironically, ear infections). Consequently I have non-directional hearing and have never been able to hear stereo. The last couple of years I have increasing tinnitus in my remaining ear, so I wear ear muffs to mow the lawns, and a closed cell foam plug whenever Supertramp comes to Halifax. I listen to my hi-fi now and don't know whether it's hiss on the master tape, from the speakers (electrostatics hiss a little when it's humid) or whether it's my own tinnitus. I'm going to hate it when I can't appreciate music.

Chris
"Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse."
Pierre-Simon de Laplace

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Post by phishkabob » Sat May 27, 2006 12:26 pm

Chris-

Have you had a tinnitus evaluation? I have had the opportunity to shadow a tinnitus specialist for the past several months, and it seems there are options that might help your problem.

Sam

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Post by dennisthemenace » Sat May 27, 2006 6:33 pm

Q-TIPS???? And what's all these other new-fangled things yer all talkin' about? What a bunch of pansies! When a real man wants to clean his ears out, he use's what Gawd intended! His car keys!


disclaimer: I really do not feel that way, but I had an uncle by marriage who would have said this in just this way and DID actually use his car keys in such a fashion. Usually at the dinner table. I became an affected snob partly in reaction to this.
Your Humble and Obedient Servant,

Dennis

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Post by ScottS » Mon May 29, 2006 7:24 am

phishkabob wrote:Chris-

Have you had a tinnitus evaluation? I have had the opportunity to shadow a tinnitus specialist for the past several months, and it seems there are options that might help your problem.

Sam
I've collaborated with some pretty spiffy ENT surgeons over the years for some pretty selective vestibular lesions for research purposes.

One of these guys told me that tinnitus surgery (I know you didn't specify surgery) is a little mysterious-- just holding the bone drill against the mastoid can kill a tinnitus.

It would be great if the specialist could pin down the tinnitus, but I'd wager that most would be extremely conservative in a patient whose only remaining hearing was a unilateral 50%

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Post by phishkabob » Mon May 29, 2006 7:49 am

I would not recommend surgery for tinnitus. Remember, a surgeon's tool to fix problems is surgery! We are often told in school to remember, "when you are a hammer, you typically see the world as nails." In other words, you are going to typically consider a diagnosis and treatment method in terms of your specific training/specialty.

There are methods related to tinnitus-retraining and masking that seem like a better option. Truthfully, most (if not all) normal hearing individuals have a certain amount of tinnitus under the right conditions (anechoic chamber). Although we are not sure what causes tinnitus, it is probably the product of dead inner cochlear haircells causing auditory distortion, or the brain turning up "aural gain" in an attempt to compensate for dead cochlear regions with a lack of auditory input (the anechoic chamber in normal hearing individuals). The trick to tinnitus treatment is discovering why certain individuals are more sensitive to these sounds. With hearing loss (similar to the case of Dr. Moss), amplification (hearing aid) is almost 85% effective. This happens because increasing sounds from one's environment, masks the tinnitus. The tinnitus stands out less when compared to other sounds. Even after the hearing aid is removed, tinnitus will subside for several hours. When the cochlea has "dead regions," neural responses become more sensitive in an attempt to compensate. With amplification, the brain strains less and tinnitus subsides. There are other methods used to lessen one's sensitivity to tinnitus that are not related to hearing aids (tinnitus maskers, tinnitus retraining therapy, etc.). There is still a lot I have to learn about tinnitus, but this is what I understand so far.

ScottS- I would be very interested in hearing more about your vestibular lesion research. This is actually one of my areas of greatest interest. Truthfully, I have considered specializing in vestibular assessment and treatment.

Sam

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