By Devyn Bernal – April 1, 2016

What has the biggest effect on our eardrums, and how can we prevent them from being ruptured?

Weather, in fact, has very little to do with the discomfort we may feel in our ears. Pressure is the biggest cause of change for this specific organ, which is why your ears are sensitive while flying. When you begin to ascend or descend, your ears may start to feel “full,” because the equilibrium in your ears is trying to readjust. This can even happen if you go up too high in an elevator too quickly! Until the ears have appropriately equalized the pressure on either side, they will have that sensation of a balloon about to burst. In some cases, such as a bad ear infection, the “pop” can provide relief, but in most cases, the pressure relieves itself on its own.

What causes that distant ringing in your ears?

The most common reason for ringing in your ears could be underlying hearing loss. If you think at any moment this could be the reason, get checked immediately! However, if you went to a wild concert at Stubb’s the night before, chances are your ears are still suffering from a temporary discomfort that is sure to go away on its own. If you’ve been previously diagnosed with a TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) or have any other issues with your jaw, the connection to your ear drums can cause pain as well. Lastly, emotional stress can harm even your ears, so make sure you take the time to relax and meditate when you can.

How long do ear infections typically last?

A viral ear infection typically lasts 3 to 5 days, and like a common cold, you have to wait it out and let the infection heal on its own. A bacterial infection can be harder to take care of, which is why doctors recommend antibiotics. With the proper treatment, the infection should go away after a week or so. If any pain lasts too long, be sure to come in and get it professionally checked.

What causes fluid to form in the eardrum?

Fluid found in your eardrum could be a number of things—from too much pool time, too much ear wax or side effects of allergies. Do not—I repeat—do not use a Q-tip to clean it out. This is not what Q-tips are meant for, contrary to belief, and they just make a regular checkup even more difficult for doctors. Most of the time, the feeling of fluid in your ear will go away on its own, but if it lasts longer than a few days or drives you to the brink of insanity, go in for a checkup to find the real problem. Many patients have chosen to get a cleaning once or twice a year from our office, or you can do it yourself at home with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide. This solution also helps with swimmer’s ear, a very uncomfortable pain for avid aquatic athletes. If this is the case, dry your ears by lightly tapping the outside with a towel, wear waterproof ear plugs when possible, or use a blow dryer on the lowest setting at least a foot away from your ear.  

Any other advice you’d like to share with us, Dr. Wu?

No Q-tips!


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