Sunday, January 18, 2015

Unclogging a plugged ear

Yup, you read that title right.  This week's post is about unclogging a plugged ear.  Yes, I understand that I should if I want to build my blog I should do the "right" thing and search Google for trending buzz words - perhaps write about extremist fundamentalists or push e-commerce by hawking some product, but MTQ the blog that provided vital information on how to select the best dog poop bag is here to rescue you when you have a plugged ear...

My Monday began with a plugged ear... my first full week back to work after multiple holidays and after stepping out of the shower I felt like I still had water in my ear.  I did what any normal 50ish year old male would do - I promptly ripped a square of toilet paper and wadded it into a small cylinder to try to dab out the water stuck in my ear.  I've done this routine before, but this time was different... my ears still felt plugged, particularly my right ear.  Through the week I quickly found how a plugged ear adversely impacts your daily living - the most obvious is that your hearing is impaired where you may feel as though you are hearing through water or sounds may be muffled; second to this is that you may feel uncoordinated, some loss of balance and orientation and a mild to substantial headache.  Additionally, I found it difficult for me to modulate my voice which posed for additional challenges on the job.

[A quick disclosure and disclaimer - I'm not a medical doctor and am not advising anyone to perform any of the procedures referred to in this post.  If you are not comfortable or willing to assume some risk via self help, please go to a licensed medical provider.]

My wife kindly offered to assist and for the first 2 days she attempted to treat my affliction by using some leftover Debrox then quickly resorted to using Hydrogen Peroxide with cotton balls, Q-tips and a flashlight.  Her method was to drop the peroxide into the ear and have me stay on my side for a few minutes then try to dislodge the wax with a Q-tip.  After the second day, she purchased a rubber bulb syringe from Target which she attempted to use to suction out wax.  A couple of quick notes - there are many generic versions of Debrox available.  Second, note that after 2 days of a plugged ear, I googled to research how to clear a plugged ear and also watched a couple of Youtube videos.  The consensus seems to be not to use Q-tips or if you do use Q-tips then you need to be very careful (she was).  Q-tips also increase the risk that you may push the blockage further back and become more impacted.  In regards to the use of Hydrogen Peroxide, there was a notable number who expressed concern regarding such use; however, I had sufficiently reliable sources to convince me that it would be OK to use.  I'll additionally note that on the second day, I attempted some self-help by pouring a very small amount of Southern Comfort into a mug then absorbing it with a cotton ball and from there I laid on my side and squeezed the Southern Comfort into my ear and held the cotton ball against the ear for a few minutes.

After 2 days of a plugged ear I was becoming more concerned and began to spend more time thinking about potential solutions.  On the 3rd day, I walked to the local CVS and at this point I was getting desperate for a solution and even considering medical attention.  I examined the offerings for ear wax removal and purchased the CVS generic "Fast Acting Earwax Removal System".  Among the greater reasons for this purchase was that it contained another bulb syringe and I was able to examine this syringe before buying as the bulb syringe from Target was terrible.  In selecting a bulb syringe, you want one that is very soft and pliable so that when you pinch it, it will quickly reform and create suction and also better control the disbursement of any fluids from the bulb syringe.  Note the bulb syringe below right from Target fails to smoothly reform into its bulb shape when squeezed.

My office mate at work related that her doctor had instructed her to warm the hydrogen peroxide first and then follow with a hot shower.  By the 3rd day, I was more than ready to try something new to dislodge the wax so I adopted some of this advice.  Starting the 3rd day, I began self treatment by wrapping my neck and shirt area with a towel, then I poured a little hydrogen peroxide into a mug and warmed it in the microwave (use caution here as each microwave is different and when you have such a small amount of liquid you can easily overshoot if you place your mug in a "hotspot" in the microwave... always test the temperature before putting it in your ear).

After warming the hydrogen peroxide, I proceeded to the couch with the mug of warm peroxide, towel and a cotton ball.  As I had done with the Southern Comfort, I absorbed the peroxide with the cotton ball and then squeezed drops into my ear while lying on my side.  I made myself very comfortable with a pillow so that I could let the peroxide sit in my ear and work for 5-10 minutes.

Next I proceeded back to the kitchen where I filled my mug with water and warmed the water in the microwave.  As with the peroxide, test the temperature before using it in your ear.  Next I used the bulb syringe to draw the warm water into the syringe then I leaned over the kitchen sink and tilted by affected ear downward and squeezed the syringe to gently squirt the water up into my ear to irrigate and to use the power of gravity so that the water would stream downward from my ear into the sink.  I repeat - 2 critical pieces - you want the temperature warm enough to soften your ear wax (cold or room temperature water will not work well) AND you want to make sure that irrigation uses gravity so that loosened wax will work downward out of your ear and into the sink.

I am pleased to report that after the second day, I was squeezing warm water from the bulb syringe into my ear and it happened... a large chunk of ear wax (which looked much like the coating of Shake-N-Bake) was flushed into the sink and immediate relief!  I'm happy to report that I can now ear in both ears and perhaps my brain is even unblocked so that I can write a better post next week (but don't bet on it).