Ear Problems & Infections : How to Drain Inner Ear Infection
How to Treat Ear Aches With Natural Remedies
An earache is a painful sensation, experienced in either the inner or outer ear, that causes pains ranging from sharp and piercing to dull and achy. The pain may be experienced in one or both ears and may be short-lived or chronic.Young children are typically more susceptible to earaches and infections than adults because the eustachian tubes, which run from the back of the throat to the middle ear, are smaller and unable to regulate fluids or pressure in the ear.Adult-aged patients may experience earaches caused by other health issues. You can treat some ear aches at home, although serious infections will require a doctor's care.
Getting a Diagnosis
Determine the cause.While the most common source of earaches in children is an ear infection, adults may experience earaches for other reasons. Common causes of earaches include:
- Swimmer's ear (otitis externa), an inflammation, irritation, or infection of the outer ear canal caused by water that remains inside the ear after swimming.
- Ear infections (otitis media), a bacterial or viral infection of the middle ear caused by fluid buildup behind the eardrum after an upper respiratory illness.
- A buildup of ear wax inside the ear.
- A sinus infection.
- Arthritis in the jaw.
- Pressure-induced ear damage (commonly due to extreme changes in altitude).
- A ruptured eardrum.
- Temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), in which the joints on either side of the head are stressed or damaged.
- Ménière's disease, an affliction of the inner ear that causes problems hearing and maintaining balance. Ménière's disease is believed to be caused by high pressure in the inner ear. Ménière's disease flareups may happen on a daily basis or as infrequently as once per year.
Check for signs of tinnitus.Tinnitus, the medical term for ringing or buzzing in the ears in the absence of external sound, is quite common in short bursts for most people. However, prolonged or chronic ringing in the ears may be a sign of tinnitus.Objective tinnitus, a rare condition, is caused by either a disorder of the blood vessels, an inner ear bone condition, or by muscle contractions. Doctors can observe objective tinnitus during an examination (hence the name).Subjective tinnitus, the more common condition, is only audible to the patient, and may be caused by damage to the outer, middle, or inner ear, or by damaged auditory nerves.Consult a physician immediately if you experience ringing in the ears after sustaining a head injury or in conjunction with unexplained symptoms such as vertigo, nausea and vomiting.Common causes of subjective tinnitus include:
- Ear infections
- Buildup of wax or the insertion of foreign objects into the ear
- Permanent hearing damage caused by loud noises
- Ménière's disease
Look for severe symptoms.If an earache lasts longer than 10 to 14 days, it may be a sign of a more serious medical problem, and you should seek medical assistance. If left untreated, chronic ear infections could cause permanent hearing lossor irreversible damage to the ear canal and tissue or bones at the base of the skull.Call an ambulance or go to the emergency room if you experience:
- Decreased consciousness
- Severe confusion
- Facial weakness, loss of voice, or difficulty swallowing associated with an earache or inner-ear damage
- Blood or discharge from the ear.
Exercise caution with children.Children are more likely to experience earaches and ear infections, especially after a cold or flu.Children with ear infections may experience pain (indicated by crying or pulling at the ears), trouble sleeping, fever, fluid discharge, or difficulty hearing or maintaining balance.There are several ways to prevent ear infections in children:
- Avoid air travel with a child or infant who has a cold. The change in pressure may exacerbate the symptoms and could lead to an infection.
- Do not use cotton swabs to clean your child's ear. Cotton swabs can push wax deeper into the ear canal, and if pushed too far, may cause irreversible damage to the ear drums.Instead, clean the outer ear with a soft, wet towel to remove wax and dirt.
- Get your child vaccinated with the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13), which protects against pneumococcal disease and meningitis. The PCV13 vaccine has been shown to reduce the occurrence of infections in the ear and blood, and reduce infant mortality in children.
- Avoid exposing children to cigarette smoke. Exposure to smoke has been linked to increased occurrence of ear infections in infants and young children.
- Limit your child's exposure to sick children. And keep clean hands, both on you and your child.
Consult an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist.If symptoms persist for more than one to two weeks or begin to affect your ability to work, drive, eat, or sleep, you may want to see an ENT specialist. ENT physicians, called otolaryngologists, can diagnose problems related to the ears, nose, and throat, and can perform corrective surgeries.Your EMT may recommend a myringotomy, a surgical procedure in which fluid trapped in the middle ear is drained out.An EMT can also prescribe ear drops and other medication to treat the causes of pain and discomfort in the ears.
Cleaning Your Ears Correctly
Do not use cotton swabs.Swabs can push earwax deeper into the ear canal, and if pushed in too deep, may rupture or otherwise damage the eardrums, causing permanent hearing damage. Doctors recommend avoiding the insertion of any objects into the ear, as anything may cause these problems.
Use ear drops to cleanse your ears.Using a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, or over-the-counter ear drops can help break up ear wax. Wait about 15 to 30 minutes for the oil to take effect. Once the wax is softened, use a bulb syringe filled with warm water to gently irrigate your ears, flushing out the wax from inside.
- Squeeze the air out of the bulb syringe.
- While still squeezing the bulb, submerge it in lukewarm water. Then release the bulb to let it fill with water. Do not use cold water, as this may cause dizziness.Do not use hot water, as this may cause burns and damage the delicate inner ear.
- Tilt your head so that the ear you intend to flush is angled downward.
- Lift the bulb syringe to your ear and hold it to your ear, just barely touching the ear itself. Donottry to insert the bulb syringe into your ear canal.
- Gently squeeze the bulb to release the lukewarm water into your ear canal.
- Repeat as necessary.
Blow dry your ears.Set a hair dryer to the lowest setting and keep it at least one foot (30 centimeters) away from your head. Angle your head sideways while blow-drying to help facilitate the flow of excess water.
Schedule regular cleanings with your doctor.If you have frequent or recurring ear problems, you may want to schedule a monthly ear cleaning with your doctor or ENT specialist. Depending on the particulars of your ear and wax situation, your ENT specialist may do any of the following during a professional ear-cleaning session:
- Use ear drops and a bulb syringe to loosen wax and flush out your ears
- Use a small suction device to vacuum out ear wax.Ear wax vacuums should only be used by professionals. Do not attempt to vacuum your ears at home.
- Use a small looped instrument called a curette to gently scoop wax out from inside the ear.Curettes should only be used by professionals. Do not attempt to use a curette at home.
Making Lifestyle Changes
Avoid foods that cause inflammation.Inflammation, which is the body's immunological response to anything it perceives as a foreign object, has been linked to a number of health problems, and can be prevented or reduced by avoiding certain foods.Foods known to cause inflammation include:
- Refined carbohydrates
- Fried foods
- Soda, and other foods and beverages with added sugar
- Red meat and processed meat
- Oily foods like margarine and lard
Stick to a low-sodium diet.Patients with chronic ear problems, especially Ménière's disease, should reduce daily sodium consumption to around 1,500 to 2,000 milligrams to reduce inflammation and fluid pressure in the inner ear.
Stay hydrated.Staying hydrated goes hand-in-hand with maintaining a low-sodium diet. Inner ear conditions like endolymphatic hydrops, a condition associated with changes in the quantity or pressure of inner-ear fluid, can be triggered by dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
- Most experts recommend drinking eight 8-oz glasses of water everyday to stay adequately hydrated.But depending on factors such as environment and activity, you may need to drink a little bit more.
- Don't overdo it. Your bodycan"overdose" on water. Drinking too much water dilutes the level of salt that is in your blood, which leads to a deadly condition called hyponatremia.
- It's best to sip on water throughout the day, in small increments, to safely avoid dehydration. Many experts warn that by the time you feel profoundly thirsty, your body may already be experiencing some degree of dehydration.
Stay rested.Sleep allows the body time to rest and heal, but recently researchers have linked hearing loss in some patients with nocturnal disturbance caused by sleep apnea.Additionally, tinnitus has been linked with inadequate sleep, which reinforces the need for adequate, restful sleep every night.
Get more vitamins.Vitamins C and B have shown promise in reducing the symptoms of tinnitus,while vitamin E is known to help with cell repair and has been shown in some studies to actually restore hearing in patients who experienced sudden hearing loss.
- You can get vitamin C from natural food sources like citrus, tomatoes, and berries.
- You can get vitamin E from spinach, broccoli, and vegetable oils.
- Try taking daily vitamin supplements to help you meet the recommended daily allowance of each vitamin.
Get more magnesium.Research has shown that magnesium, found in leafy green vegetables like spinach and in over-the-counter supplements, may help protect the auditory system and reduce the symptoms of tinnitus.
- The current recommended daily intake of magnesium is 400 milligrams for adult males, 310 milligrams for adult females, 350 milligrams for pregnant adult females, and 310 milligrams for lactating adult females.Your doctor may recommend a higher or lower dosage, depending on your age and other health-related factors. Consult with your physician before beginning any supplement regimen.
Take a zinc supplement.Zinc is an essential mineral found in many natural sources like seafood, cheese, poultry, and red meat. Some studies have shown that taking a zinc supplement in patients with a severe zinc deficiency may help reduce the occurrence of middle-ear infections, though more research is needed in that area.
- The current recommended daily intake of zinc is 11 milligrams for adult males, 8 milligrams for adult females, 11 milligrams for pregnant adult females, and 12 milligrams for lactating adult females.Your doctor may recommend a higher or lower dosage, depending on your age and other health-related factors. Consult with your physician before beginning any supplement regimen.
Using Home Remedies
Apply a warm compress.Try using a warm towel, a warm water bottle, or a bag of warm salt on the ear--just make sure the compress is not too hot.Repeat as necessary, holding it to the ear for a few minutes at a time. This should bring immediate relief.
Try using tea tree oil.Tea tree oil is occasionally used by veterinarians to treat ear infections in dogs. Human patients wanting to try it on an earache should use caution, as tea tree oil may irritate the skin.
- Dilute tea tree oil before applying to ears. You can use water, if you like. One popular remedy calls for mixing three drops of tea tree oil with two tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Use a dropper to apply the mixture to the affected ear.
- Do not use tea tree oil in your ears if you have ear tubes, as it may cause inflammation and irritation.
- Do not use tea tree oil if you are pregnant, as it may cause complications during contractions.
Ask a pharmacist about Otikon.Otikon is a plant extract that has been used as a mild anesthetic to reduce the pain caused by ear infections. However, some plants containing Otikon may have adverse side effects. It's best to consult with a physician or pharmacist before trying this or any herbal remedy.
Yawn or swallow to open your ears.Swallowing and yawning are known to open up the eustachian tube, removing pressure and reducing ear pain.
- The Valsalva Maneuver may be helpful to clear up ear pressure, although you should not do this when you are experiencing ear pain. Hold your nose and then blow as though you were blowing your nose. You should feel your ears "pop."
Chew gum.Chewing gum has been shown to help relieve ear pressure, much like yawning and swallowing.
Take an aspirin to reduce pain and inflammation.Aspirin should only be administered if the sufferer is an adult. Aspirin is a safe and effective pain reliever and anti-inflammatory agent.Take one to two tablets every four to six hours as needed. Follow the instructions on the label for guidelines on how much aspirin is safe to consume in a 24 hour period.
- Aspirin should never be given to children or teenagers due to the link between aspirin and Reye's syndrome in children and adolescents. Reye's syndrome is rare, but it can be very serious, causing the liver and brain to swell.Consult your child's pediatrician for a safe alternative pain reliever to give to your child.
Recognize the limits of natural remedies.If your pain persists despite your use of natural treatments, see a doctor. You should also see a doctor as soon as possible if you experience discharge from your ear, such as fluid, pus, or blood.
- If your child has an ear ache that does not go away within one day, see your pediatrician.
QuestionIs it good to ice my ears?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerDo not put ice directly on the skin, as it can cause ice burn, but if there is inflammation, then putting ice in a cloth and on your ear is a good way to reduce it. Only place ice on your ear for up to ten minutes at a time.Thanks!
QuestionI heard putting a drop of onion juice in the ear works for earaches. Does that really work?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, many have reported favorable results from using this technique.Thanks!
QuestionWhat should I do if my child constantly gets ear infections?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerGo to the doctor immediately. There may be something wrong with their ears.Thanks!
QuestionWould using a sock filled with rice work well, too?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf it's warm, it could, because applying heat is good.Thanks!
QuestionWhat should I do if my ear is bleeding?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou should call or visit your doctor immediately. This can imply irreversible damage to your delicate inner ear.Thanks!
QuestionCan I use coconut oil on my ears?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes! Coconut oil has many great functions, and it should help to open up your ears and relieve pain. Just remember to use lukewarm water to wash out your ears afterwards.Thanks!
QuestionCan I treat earaches by putting alcohol in my ear?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, you shouldn't put alcohol in your ear in an attempt to treat an earache.Thanks!
QuestionCan I put warm oil in my ear?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, but you should ensure that the oil is warm, not hot.Thanks!
Can I use icy hot in my ear to clear wax out?
How can I treat it at home if there is too much water coming from the ear and to get rid of the pain
- Try to avoid flying in airplanes as the cabin pressure can cause discomfort. The same goes for scuba diving.
- If you must go outdoors while suffering with an earache, wear a scarf and hat to cover your ears from the wind, or apply cotton wool to both ears.
- A sudden, severe pain in the ear without a cold or sore throat is unusual, and may herald an infection and should be referred to a doctor. Likewise, swelling, blood or pus in the ear, dizziness, and loss of hearing should receive immediate attention.
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