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Blogs of Dr. Marc Mueller

Common Ear Problems - Part One

Patients are suffering mostly from either ear pain or muffled hearing, which can happen separately or combined.

Very common in the UAE is the swimmers ear which is an irritation in the outer ear that can increase to a severely painful ear canal infection with swelling, discharge and hearing loss.

This condition is called Otitis Externa - it affects the external ear canal. The extraordinary feature of the outer ear canal is that it is partly a bony canal through the skull. This canal has a very thin lining of skin. Also it has sensitive nerves partially stemming direct from the brain.

It can easily get injuries, so called micro lesions; they can even be a result of manipulation with cotton buds or just chemical irritation from chlorine water.

Those lesions sometimes allow germs like bacteria or fungus to find a ground for growth in the ear canal. Swimmers can pick them up from warm swimming pool water and may rub them under the skin of the ear canal. The humid and warm climate in the small ear canal delivers an ideal environment for bacterial and fungal growth and also the defense is due to the extremely thin skin not very strong. It is even more impaired if the affected person is diabetic. Therefore diabetic persons, swimmers and divers need to be careful about the ear canal.

The ear canal ends at the tympanic membrane like a dead end.

All water that enters the ear, can reach no further than to the tympanic membrane and will eventually either vaporize or run out of the ear.

It is advisable to dry the ear canal gently with the blow dryer.

Ear cleaning however is an automatic process which is done by the ear canal itself when the skin slowly grows towards the outer opening of the canal and carries all the dirt, that is stuck on ear wax with it until it falls out.

The ear wax is a form of sweat which is produced by glands in the ear-canal's skin.

The ear wax is sticky and contains a substance with insecticide abilities. Little insects that may creep into the ear will get stuck in the wax and die eventually from the toxin of the ear wax.

Obese people tend to have less ventilated ear canals with more of these sweat glands and are prawn to more irritation in the ear canal.

Succumbing to the itchiness by manipulating with the finger or ripping on the ear or even using anything to reach inside the ear canal can cause the above mentioned micro-lesions and end with very painful ear canal infection.

My advice is to clean the ears whenever you take a shower directly by pulling the ear pinna gently backwards, little amounts of dirt bearing wax will be flushed out, and afterwards the ear may be dried with blow dryer in the same manner.