Ear Problems and Solutions
Access for advice

If you have an ear problem DO NOT IGNORE IT.  It will ONLY go away WITH TREATMENT.   The longer you leave it the longer the treatment will take.

We care for people with dry; flaky; irritable; painful; runny and blocked ears

Itchy ears - If you wear ear plugs, ear defenders, or ear pieces for extended periods such as with hands-free phone kits and they irritate your ears please contact us for advice



Dry skin in the ear canal which causes irritation may be alleviated with an olive oil spray.  However this dry skin may just be a symptom of another problem so it is best to have your ear checked. Use of hairsprays, shampoo or some soaps can cause irritation of the skin. Some people are more prone to this problem than others.

Waxy ears - A regular check and lift out of excess wax prevents the wax building up enough to block the ears which may then require irrigation.  If your hearing aid is whistling it may be that by lifting out the excess wax the whistling will cease, as this noise is caused by the acoustic feed back to the microphone when the ear is blocked or if the mould of the hearing aid does not fit well. First of all you need to know if it is just wax which is blocking your ear, not infection. If it is wax, many general practices continue to request that olive oil is inserted into the ear for varying lengths of time before the practice nurse will remove the earwax. However there is little evidence to support this action. Recent research about olive oil and earwax shows that rather than encouraging the earwax to disperse, the oil infiltrates into the earwax and increases the bulk of earwax in the ear. The research has also shown a preferable method is to spray the ear with olive oil spray and massage the front of the ear immediately before earwax removal. This method (Rodgers' Method) is now provided by some surgeries and also BSHAA Clinical Ear Care Hearing Aid Audiologists where earwax can be removed on the same day as the request for removal. (See Research Abstract and Wax Removal Method).

Never leave cotton wool in your ears unless a dressing is in place, or cold wind causes the ear to ache. Many people find the olive oil spray easier to use than olive oil drops as it provides a measured amount of oil and does not flood the ear.

Infected ears - this can occur in either the outer ear canal or in the middle ear space

Outer ear canal - swimming in poorly maintained pools while on holiday is a common way to start an infection. The chlorine level may also be higher than normal and this could irritate the skin of the ear. It is best to carry a Tea Tree oil/olive oil ear spray and/or Glacial Acetic Acid ear spray in your first aid kit (can be bought over the counter at any pharmacist shop). If any of the family above 12 years of age have an ear problem it can be prevented from becoming worse and then causing the associated pain which could spoil the holiday. These sprays may be used for younger children with medical advice. The Tea Tree oil ear spray also used before swimming may help prevent soreness developing. The Glacial Acetic Acid spray provides an acid environment in the ear canal and the bacteria are deterred. 

Middle ear space - This space, behind the ear drum, is lined with wet skin as in your mouth and nose and fluid can collect in this space if air entry is reduced because of a blockage at the back of the nose.  85% of children experience fluid in the middle ear at some stage and 50% will resolve spontaneously within 3 months.  Winter, respiratory infections, passive smoking are some of the environmental risk factors.  Hearing loss and changes in speech are the noticeable symptoms.  If this fluid becomes infected through sore throats the result is a very painful acute otitis media and 40% of children will suffer one or more episodes before the age of 7 years.  At least 85% will resolve within 72 hours without treatment (Harkness Et Al, 2000).  The child may be irritable with fever and sickness or may be active with just an ear ache. A combination of paediatric Ibuprofen and Paracetamol will provide analgesia but if there is no resolution after 3 days medical advice should be sought or if the child has repeated ear infections.  Encourage the child to clear the nasal airway both morning and night by either a big sniff or by blowing the nose. A small saline spray sprayed into the nose also helps to clear the nasal passage.

Painful ears - this can be caused by an infected hair follicle at the entrance to the ear canal (boil) which will require medical attention.  An outer or middle ear infection can also cause pain.  Traumatising the ear canal or perforating the ear drum is painful.  Discomfort can be caused by a foreign body inserted into the canal.  Pain may be referred to the ear from some other problem such as teeth, glands, jaw movement joint, neck joints or a sore throat.


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