Understanding Ear Ailments

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By Angela Mutiso

The Ear Canal’s Skin Is Thin and Sensitive, Handle It Gently

Scientists have long understood that the auditory regions of the two halves of the brain sort out sound differently. The left side dominates in deciphering speech and other rapidly changing signals, while the right side leads in processing tones and music. Because of how the brain’s neural network is organized, the brain’s left half controls the right side of the body, and the left ear is more directly connected to the right side of the brain- Science Daily.

When Gregory woke up with a throbbing pain on the left side of his face, he had no idea the pain was coming from his ear. Initially, it was dull and distant. However, as hours passed, the ache grew sharper and more persistent. Eventually, the pain seemed to be coming in waves through his ear, his cheek and straight into his head. The sharp pains now seemed like electric shocks passing through his ear. If you have ever had an ear ailment, you must know that throbbing pain in your ear can be a significant discomfort. 

The ear is a complex organ with several essential functions that are vital for everyday life. The ear’s aids go far beyond just hearing. They are necessary for balance, communication, environmental awareness, cognitive growth, and emotional comfort. Protecting and maintaining ear health is essential for the overall quality of life.

The ears are located proportionally on either side of your head, allowing sound to be heard in both ears. The ear’s most well-known function is hearing. Many are, however, not aware that the process of hearing involves several components:

Experts and researchers explain that the outer ear picks up sound waves and guides them through the ear canal to the Eardrum. The middle ear increases the sound vibrations from the Eardrum and conveys them to the inner ear. In contrast, the inner ear converts sound vibrations into electrical signs sent to the brain through the auditory nerve. 

The inner ear encompasses the vestibular system and helps with balance and spatial orientation. It also enables effective communication. Because of it, we can understand spoken language and detect hints in tone and pitch to judge emotions and intentions. It aids in social interactions as well. Environmental awareness includes alerting us to danger, appreciating good music, and listening to the sounds around us. Cognitive skills help children with learning and intellectual growth through listening and understanding so they can read and write.

Ear ailments, according to Vandana Kumra, MDEar, Nose & Throat Doctor (New York, NY), can vary from slight infections to more serious ones and may interfere with hearing and balance. In most cases, an ear infection can be brought about by a bacterium or virus in the middle ear. This infection is usually caused by another illness—cold, flu, or allergy—that results from congestion and swelling of the nasal passageways, throat, and eustachian tubes.

Some symptoms and treatment:

Otitis externa (swimmer’s ear): This condition causes clear fluid or pus drainage, an ear itch, and redness inside the ear. Using prescribed antibiotic drops and pain relievers can help keep the ear dry. You must avoid inserting objects into your ear.

Otitis Media (Middle Ear Infection) is characterized by pain in the ear, irritability in children, hearing problems, and fever. Antibiotics are usually used if a bacterial infection is the cause; painkillers and warm compresses also aid pain relief. ·Tinnitus is detected by ear noises like humming, ringing, or buzzing. It can be associated with hearing loss. Tinnitus is usually treated by removing earwax; white noise machines may be used. Hearing aids can also be used to treat hearing loss.

Perforated Eardrum may present itself through Tinnitus, fluid or blood drainage, not hearing correctly or sharp pain. It would help if you kept the ear dry to avoid infection. An operation may be necessary, but oral antibiotics can also be helpful in case of an infection.  Meanwhile, Meniere’s Disease causes hearing loss. Tinnitus is a spinning sensation and makes you feel like your ears are full. This condition, also known as vertigo, may be treated by using diuretics to reduce fluid retention having a low-salt diet is encouraged, you may have to be injected, and in severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Eustachian Tube Dysfunction is another ear ailment. It is characterized by stifled hearing, clicking sounds, or the sensation that something is popping, as well as a general feeling of discomfort. Antihistamines can be used, if the feeling is related to an allergy, the tube can be opened through the Valsalva manoeuvre, nasal steroids can be administered, and in a worst-case scenario, balloon dilation surgery may be performed. 

How should you clean your ear?

Your ear is delicate, so you must take great care when cleaning it. It is advisable to use a moist cloth to clean the outer ear and the area directly outside the ear canal. If any dirt or extra earwax appears outside your ear canal, gently wipe it away.

The body naturally produces earwax to protect the ears. Usually, it exits the ear canal on its own, but if you feel you have too much build-up, you can use over-the-counter earwax softening drops. Alternatively, a few drops of hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, or baby oil could be helpful. – After administering the drops, let the liquid and earwax drain out by tilting your head to the side for a few minutes. Use a bulb syringe to rinse your ear with warm water, if required gently. Then, turn your head the other way and gently pull on your earlobe to help the water drain out of your ear. 

It’s important to avoid inserting cotton swabs, fingers, or any objects into the ear canal. This can push earwax further into the ear, potentially causing blockages or damaging the ear drum. If you’re experiencing symptoms like hearing loss, ear pain, or feeling fullness in the ear, it’s best to seek professional medical advice.

In the meantime, American speech language-Hearing Association (ASHA) advises you to avoid loud noise as much as possible because if sounds are loud, they move the fluid in the inner ear more, and that can damage the hair cells. Hair cells that are damaged by loud sounds do not send signals to the brain as well as they should. The first hair cells that are hurt are those that send high-pitched sounds to the brain.

 An ear doctor can safely remove excessive earwax or treat any underlying issues. Remember, the ear canal’s skin is thin and sensitive, so it’s crucial to handle it gently and avoid introducing sharp objects or harsh chemicals that could cause irritation or injury.

Health Tips

  • Make sure insect bites do not become infected by washing the affected area with soap and warm water and then applying an antiseptic.
  • Relieve yourself when you feel the urge, rather than holding it in until it’s more convenient. Your body is trying to tell you what is best for it, so listen!
  • Do not take vitamins just before sleeping at night, your body will not digest them easily…David J. Pine
  • When you have flu or a cold, try inhaling hot water as steam or take it as a drink to loosen phlegm.
  • Women on birth control pills who also smoke have an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and other circulatory diseases. Smoking can also affect certain diagnostic tests like red and white blood cell counts…Do’s and Don’ts of medicine….cap guide.
  • Remember to brush your tongue whenever you brush your teeth. A lot of bacteria hide there and may complicate your (bad breath) problem.

The writer is the editorial consultant of the Accountant Journal. [email protected]

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