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I would like to consider myself an audiophile.
You can have the most expensive set of speakers and audiophile equipment out there but it is all for naught if the last few centimeters intervening between the external world and Cranial Nerve VIII (Acoustic Nerve) is blocked.
The external auditory canal essentially serves as a conduit, allowing sound waves to enter, interact with the tympanic membrane/middle ear which then carry the auditory stimulus to the brain.
Cerumen, the official medical term for “ear wax,” has a nasty habit of accumulating and causing this conduit to be blocked.
Sure sounds can still get transmitted through cerumen, but the amplitude of the waves are dampened and, depending on the severity of cerumen accumulation, sound can be muffled.
Similar to the format I used for my Doctor’s Bag Fruit Fly Trap post, I am going to break down treatment options by tiers going from frugal to not.
Tier 1: The Frugalist.
I guess the cheapest option is using your finger, but that is very ineffective (unless you have digits thin enough to really enter the auditory canal.
That brings me to the cheapest viable option for addressing cerumen, the humble Q-tip.
I guarantee you that the majority of us use the Q-tip inappropriately and in ways not originally intended.
The common method of inserting the Q-tip as far as it goes in the ear and then swirling it around only serves to push the cerumen deeper into the auditory canal, thereby impacting it.
Properly used, a Q-tip can clear any wax near the opening of the auditory canal, which really should be the extent for its use.
Tier 2: Keep me in the loop.
I found out about an ear loop courtesy of my medical school days.
I ended up getting a Ear Wax Removal Kit which contained multiple ear loops and spatulas.
The advantage an ear loop has over the Q-tip is that rather than pushing cerumen deeper into the external auditory canal, it can be used to scrape and bring it to the surface.
Care has to be taken when using this tool as theoretically you can damage the tympanic membrane (eardrum) by too deep of an insertion.
Like using the Q-tip this is a “blind” process.
You have no way of accurately telling where the cerumen happens to be or how much there is.
You sort of get a feel of where cerumen tends to accumulate but it still is done blindly.
Tier 3: The Digital Age.
This brings us to the high end level of cerumen removal.
Similar to an endoscope, the latest ear wax removal breakthrough is a spatula type contraption that provides a live video feed courtesy of a tiny camera and lighting system at its business end.
It is truly remarkable regarding advances in technology that make this possible.
These tiny cameras are now capable of HD-type levels of quality.
This completely removes the biggest negative of the ear loop discussed in the previous tier, having to remove cerumen blindly.
You can now accurately visualize areas of cerumen accumulation and even document its complete removal.
I personally use the BEBIRD X17 Pro Otoscope Ear Wax Removal Tool and have been extremely pleased with it.
There is an app you download for your phone that syncs with the otoscope through its own dedicated WiFi network so you can have live images and also have the capability of recording the feed to your phone.
A live feed also allows you to remove cerumen on younger children who may not be capable of using the tool themselves.
In addition to direct visualization, the concern for injury of the tympanic membrane is drastically reduced as the tip of the spatula is made of silicone and is designed so that it cannot be inserted as far into the auditory canal as a metal ear loop.
A supplemental tool.
When I first started using the Otoscope Ear Wax Removal tool, I saw that there was a large accumulation of cerumen just out of reach of the spatula tip.
I ended up purchasing a Cleanse Right 2nd Generation Ear Wax Removal Tool Kit which is essentially a fancy ear irrigation system.
This tool did the trick.
After placing ear drops in and allowing the cerumen to be softened, I flushed my ear with the irrigator and lo and behold, a large piece of cerumen landed in the basin which looked like a casting of the deepest part of my auditory canal.
It was gross and intriguing at the same time.
I am sure it had been there for quite a long time as it was quite darkened in color (fresh ear wax tends to be a light yellowish hue).
What was remarkable was that I used to have a problem with water getting into my ear after swimming etc and staying there (forcing me to rigorously shake and tap my head).
This casting likely created a ball-valve mechanism that trapped water which caused an uncomfortable feeling.
After the removal of this cerumen casting, I have not had any further instances of discomfort whenever I happen to have water enter my ear.
Curious to see what other items are in my doctor’s bag?
Just open the bag and peer inside, you may find something of use.
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