Irritated Enough To Irrigate
January 31, 2010 10:18 PM   Subscribe

Ear wax-filter: I'm looking for some advice and/or tips about dealing with earwax blockage in one ear (resulting in muffled hearing) and the proper usage of at-home irrigation systems.

I've had a history of excessive earwax since I was a kid, and this issue has followed me into adulthood. When I was young, I'd have to use Debrox drops and either my pediatrician or an ENT would irrigate my ears (or the ENT would pick at them with some kind of sharp implement which HURTS, btw). When I was in college, I had my last irrigation (the most pleasant one I ever had: my pediatrician used a massive hose, but the last irrigation utilized a little squirt bottle). I was told I should use Debrox every couple of months, or as needed.

Since college, my ears would sometimes feel a little stuffed up, and my hearing would become a little muffled. I'd use the drops for about a week, and it would clear up. I'm experiencing the stuffiness and muffled hearing again. It's much more noticeable in my left ear. I've also experienced some minor seasonal congestion and sinus pressure on that side of my head. I don't believe I'm sick. I don't feel any pressure or pain in the ear. Sometimes I feel a little itchy like, you know, there's excess earwax, but I'm not getting any loose debris out of the ear. I've had no dizziness. I assume there's a relationship between the congested left ear and the congested left side of my head? If so, when the 'congestion season' ends, could my ear clear up, too?

Anyway, I have been using Debrox drops, but I only experience minor, temporary hearing improvements after using it. The next day I feel all stuffed up there, again. I bought a Murine kit that has The Bulb. This is a first for me, attempting to perform an irrigation myself at home. I just did it for the first time ever, and I haven't experienced any immediate improvements. I'd like a bit of advice before I go on. I did it with warm to lukewarm water. I was a bit squeamish, so I don't think I actually got that much water down there. I'm going to consider what I did a practice run. Exactly HOW are you supposed to use the bulb? What position should I have my head in? How many times should I squirt water down there? Should I invert my head right away (to have the water drip out immediately), or do I let the water stay down there for a bit? Should I let it spray in at full-blast or should I drip it in slowly? After I complete a proper irrigation using the bulb once, should I experience immediate results if it's going to help? If not, do I use the drops again the next day and then use the bulb immediately (do I wait 24 hours)? Or should I let go for a day or two? Seriously, if you've had success with a stubborn case, walk me through the bulbing process. The Murine box is so vague. After this first try, how many other times should I attempt to loosen and then irrigate the earwax in this ear before I see a doctor? (Or, since I have been using the drops, should I use the bulb and then use the drops immediately after the bulb??)

With the exception of ear candling, do you have any other tips? I have NOT been using Q-Tips (because I'm afraid that will impact anything that's already impacted), however, before this became an issue I was using ear plugs habitually to sleep through noisy neighbors. I stopped using them as soon as I noticed that my hearing wasn't as good. I haven't used them in a few months now.

I really would prefer to treat this at home and not have to consult a doctor. Finances (and fear) are a major issue. I've dealt with many stuffed up/muffled hearing instances just with a round of the drops and never having to see a doctor, so my first inclination isn't that I should have to see one, anyway. I was looking at Walgreen's minute clinic. Would they treat something like this? If so, how much do you think that'd cost? When should I give up and seek medical attention?

Thanks in advance!!
posted by Mael Oui to Health & Fitness (44 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, those bulbs don't offer nearly enough water pressure. I use a syringe with a plastic nozzle cut down to about a two-millimeter hole, and just blast it when I'm in the shower until big chunks of earwax work their way out. This is probably not a good idea, and I expect that your doctor would advise strongly against it.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:30 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

On doctor's advice, I bought an OTC earwax kit one time that featured dilute hydrogen peroxide. That gets dripped into the ear canal, and it fizzes. It's a very strange feeling, but it isn't painful. What it's doing is to eat away at the ear wax that's built up.

After a while (five or ten minutes) then you go with the bulb, and it's a lot more effective because the peroxide has loosened the ear wax.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:35 PM on January 31, 2010

IANAD, but I have chronic problems with blockages in my Eustachian tubes. It makes me feel stuffy, but unlike you, I also feel throbbing pressure in there, so I don't know how useful this advice for you. Blocked tubes can happen as a result of sinus infections, allergies, built-up earwax, and upper respiratory infections. I noticed that you said this happens along with sinus problems and co-occurs with seasonal change- these sound like good things to tell a doctor about if this doesn't go away, as you might have a chronic sinus infection or undiagnosed allergies. I know you'd rather not, but this could be a fairly simple fix.

I do not use anything in my ears. Instead, I just take some Sudafed (the real stuff from behind the counter, not the stuff on the shelves). My doctor and my mom (a nurse) both separately recommended this. It seems to help. If your problem doesn't end up being with your Eustachian tubes, though, this probably won't help you.
posted by emilyd22222 at 10:38 PM on January 31, 2010

Best answer: You're doing right by only using carbamide peroxide for a week. Any longer and you will be irritating your ear canal so that it makes more earwax, which would be bad. Unfortunately, by the time your hearing is affected, the drops pretty much won't do jack. You have to irrigate.

When I irrigate, I put a stool in the shower and sit up straight. I use a combination of cold water (not too cold, though) and hydrogen peroxide (peroxide being the source of the MicroFoam™ action that Debrox claims). I sit because the cold water in my ear can throw off my balance. I sit in the shower because I often have to irrigate for a long time, and it's easier to clean up in the shower.

I squirt the water/peroxide mix from the bulb until I dislodge the wax or until my ear is full of water. I squirt hard. If my ear fills up, I let it drain and start again. You will know when you dislodge the wax because a big, brown, pencil-eraser-size plug will end up on the shower floor. That's when you stop. You will not need drops after that.

infinitywaltz's idea will also work. I actually had two doctors do exactly that to me (that is, irrigate at high-pressure using a syringe).
posted by infinitewindow at 10:43 PM on January 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm an idiot; looks like you were already using peroxide. Sorry.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:46 PM on January 31, 2010

In my experience, those bulbs don't offer nearly enough water pressure. I use a syringe with a plastic nozzle cut down to about a two-millimeter hole, and just blast it when I'm in the shower until big chunks of earwax work their way out. This is probably not a good idea, and I expect that your doctor would advise strongly against it.

This is actually, IIRC, almost exactly what the doctor will do if you go to them for this problem. You may be able to clear it yourself, but if not, there's no shame in going to the doctor for it. Well, OK, maybe a little shame, but they will clear it out for you in like 10 minutes with their professional equipment.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:53 PM on January 31, 2010

First, thumbs up for saying no to ear candling! The first thing I was going to say is "DON'T USE EAR CANDLES" but I see you've covered that.

My father has had the exact same problem since he was a wee one. He's tried everything, every OTC and old wive's tale and "Hey I wonder if..." solution. He eventually gave up and resigned himself to just going to the doctor to have them take care of it.

It's okay - the doctors totally understand!

Walgreen's Minute Clinic is staffed with people who are qualified to do this, but I'm not sure if they have the equipment. Call and ask ahead of time.

Also, be sure to ask about the price up front! It feels weird to ask how much a medical procedure costs. (I usually lead off with "I know this is a tacky thing to ask, but...") If you're trying to save money, you might be shocked at the cost of these walk-in clinics. I know I often am!
posted by ErikaB at 11:02 PM on January 31, 2010

I have simlar periodic ear problems and I always see a Doctor. Once a tired and frankly bored GP sent me home with a little water syringe and told me to keep trying with warm water and mild pressure until it cleared. Took a bout 10 goes and I found water about as warm as blood temperature did the trick.

Another less practical suggestion is to be like the Kombai of New Guinea
posted by evil_esto at 11:06 PM on January 31, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you for all the speedy answers so far! I'm still reading over and contemplating all the information. If you have anything to add, keep 'em coming!

I'm not ashamed to have to go to a doctor, though. I'm afraid, since I've had bad experiences with ENTs in the past (when I was a kid). But it's mostly because I have no insurance and no money. I can't afford it. I have no family doctor and no doctor to give me a referral. And I don't drive, so it's not easy for me to actually get... anywhere! Which is why doctors are always a 'last resort.' Just to clear that up! :-D
posted by Mael Oui at 11:12 PM on January 31, 2010

Try showering and then using your "bulb" with warm water afterwards. The wax should have softened while in the shower. I would do it over the bathroom sink with a towel. You can see anything ( if it does) that comes out. Maybe sitting on a stool or chair. But you may get lightheaded so be careful. I would get into a habit of doing this on a regular basis if its that much of a problem. How regular is up to you. The bulb makes you dizzy because of the water being forced being put on the eardrum which can cause you to be off balance. I've also been told that baby oil or even vegetable oil will soften the wax. You might also try the little ear "hair clippers" that are sold in stores. You might have less hair for the wax to cling onto that way. Q-tips aren't recommended because they can leave little fibers in your ear that can make things worse. IANAD.
posted by Taurid at 11:15 PM on January 31, 2010

My doctor gave me a prescription for some special type of olive oil drops (at least I assume it is special - maybe it's possible to use shop-bought olive oil - I'll ask next time I see him).

After a few days/a week, the wax breaks down and just comes out naturally.
posted by idiomatika at 11:22 PM on January 31, 2010

I have that exact same problem - seems like about every other year I have to go in and have my ears blasted out, no matter what I do. In the meantime I use the bulb, but you need a big softball sized one, not the little one that comes in a debrox kit. The syringe would work better as far as pressure, but I find that it's really sustained volume that does the trick.

This is probably not a good idea, and I expect that your doctor would advise strongly against it.

On the contrary, that's exactly what they do most of the time. They'd advise you strongly against putting any objects into your ears, though, so you'll have to aim the water jet by feel as you're spraying - get a big capacity syringe.
posted by ctmf at 11:23 PM on January 31, 2010

Best answer: If your ears hurt, you should see a doctor because you may have impacted wax, an infection or some other real problem. If they don't hurt, give it several gentle tries on your own.

* Use a gentle steady stream of sufficient lukewarm water, at least 30 cc (1 ounce) each time. Better to be a little too gentle and have to repeat than to be too harsh and hurt yourself. That said, don't waste your time with a trickle of water if you've already used hydrogen peroxide or something similar for softening the wax.

* Don't aim dead centre down your ear canal. This may push the wax in further. Keep the tip of the bulb just inside the canal, but try not to touch the canal so you don't accidentally scratch yourself. Aim the stream at the TOP of the canal. This puts a little English on what you're doing, and allows the returning water to come out along the bottom of the canal, encouraging the wax to follow.

* If repeated tries make your ear hurt, stop. Try again the next day if it doesn't hurt. If it still hurts the next day, see a doctor, have them finish the job, and ask for their specific advice on doing it on your own the next time. The last doctor I saw about this years ago actually gave me a big old syringe for free.
posted by maudlin at 11:28 PM on January 31, 2010

Aha, just noticed the ear plugs. That's what really brings it on for me, the foamy earplugs. If you must use earplugs, get a set of the silicone triple flange type or have a fitted set made for your ears. (I have no idea what the fitted ones would cost, since my safety department at work will get them done for us)
posted by ctmf at 11:31 PM on January 31, 2010

Second or third-ing plain old fashioned Sudafed if this is at all exacerbated by sinuses. I'm being buried with a box of that shit.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:04 AM on February 1, 2010

Just repeating what's already been said, but I had this problem when I was much younger (no longer). I would buy the bulb, take the shower, then blast it. It always worked, though it took a while sometimes.

I then decided maybe it wasn't healthy, so the next time the problem arose I went to the doctor. They brought me into a room and did the EXACT same thing. It cost me money, and I got to share the experience with a pretty nurse (wow, even more ear wax is coming out!). In other words, it sucked.

So the next time I just went back to doing it alone; my own private shame.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 12:05 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Before when I said "I always see a Doctor" it's because they have universal healthcare in my country. You don't need much or even any money at all to get basic healthcare. I wasn't trying to sound blase and superior.

An oily catalyst applied beforehand to loosen the wax, warm but not HOT water, mild pressure and persistence seem to be the key. Good luck.
posted by evil_esto at 12:12 AM on February 1, 2010

I rarely have earwax problems, but when I do I use an Ototek Loop. Five bucks at Walgreens. Ask your doctor if you have concerns, of course--IANAMD.
posted by tellumo at 1:01 AM on February 1, 2010

Response by poster: Okay, I'm going for the ear cleaning maggots. But thanks everyone else. You had some good ideas, too. Errr, just kidding!

I definitely get the impression that ctmf knows EXACTLY what I'm talking about here.. right down to those dastardly ear plugs that probably created this mess!

So.. basically, I guess I will keep doing what I'm doing. I was just afraid that it's taking too long. The muffled hearing has been going on for about a month or so, and I've been using the drops for much of that time. I don't do the drops every day, but maybe.. every other day. I've definitely done the drops more than four times. I haven't really used the bulb properly yet, though. The Murine box (I got the Murine drops and bulb kit to replace my last Debrox drops) just says that if you use the product more than four times and don't see any results, consult a doctor. I guess they just say that to cover themselves. I was also afraid that I'm doing more harm than good by using the drops repeatedly. There's no pain or pressure at all. Not that I'm AWARE of anyway. So, is it okay to use the drops off and on for as long as a month?

As far as it being more of a congestion issue: When I wake up, I'm congested, and the muffled hearing is much worse. It usually improves somewhat as my nose kind of dries up a little over the course of the day. But my nose isn't as stuffy as it would be if, say, I had a cold. It's just seasonably runny and congested.

evil_esto - Oh no, my explanation about not wanting to go to a doctor wasn't in response to your comment! I just wanted to clear up that I wasn't ashamed to go to a doctor. If things were simpler, it would be my inclination to just go to one. That's obviously the ideal solution. A doctor probably could've cleared this up in no time at all, and I'd have someone to answer my questions and actually look in there and see what's going on. That would certainly be my advice to anyone with this problem.

I've had enough issues with earwax that I have read a lot of articles online. Ear candling definitely doesn't seem like something I want to get involved in. Also, I used to be a Q-tipper but was convinced that was a bad habit and stopped long ago. I find that I see a lot of information about what sorts of drops to put in the ears (some people say a 50-50 solution of water and whatever or olive oil or using the drops from the store or mineral water, etc.), but when it comes to actually using the bulb properly and doing the self-irrigation, the information seems to lessen.

I am rambly, sorry. Anyway, I'll be back in the morning to reread all the comments, so if anyone has anything more to add, keep going! But thank you everyone, so far, for your input! I'll probably have more comments later, too.
posted by Mael Oui at 1:10 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: tellumo - I've seen the Ototek Loop. But I was scared by it. Is it really safe? Does it hurt? What does it feel like?
posted by Mael Oui at 1:15 AM on February 1, 2010

I do pretty much what maudlin recommends above (if I can't be bothered going to the doctor to get it done) and that works for me. I always soften the wax first with olive oil - makes the process much easier. I'd do it in the shower - you do need quite a bit of water.
posted by crocomancer at 2:42 AM on February 1, 2010

You may want to consider investing in a real doctor's visit and treatment, even without insurance. An ear, nose, and throat specialist will vacuum out *everything*, so that it may take a much longer time for enough earwax to build up and form a new blockage. I used to have occasional earwax blockages until I finally went to see a specialist about a particularly bad case that hadn't gone away after a week and some attempts with over-the-counter treatments. It took 2-3 years before I had another blockage. I know this could be $200-$400 without insurance, but maybe that's worth it to you. And again, you can always negotiate in advance with a doctor's office.
posted by RobinFiveWords at 3:18 AM on February 1, 2010

Best answer: I do it by leaning over the sink, ear down, so it's like I'm looking off to my left if I am irrigating my right ear. That way I'm spraying up into the ear, and gravity can help carry the wax out. It can definitely take multiple sessions if the wax is stubborn. I try and get the water about the same temperature as a baby's bottle (check with the sensitive skin inside your wrist) -- I fill the syringe from a bowl and irrigate over the sink, so I'm not reusing the same water over and over.
posted by Forktine at 4:40 AM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

There's a local Fast Care clinic here and they'll do an ear irrigation for their standard $40 fee for basic care. My spouse has the same exact issue as you, resulting from a series of childhood ear infections, and I'm definitely not willing to shove loops in his ears (potential eardrum perforation was not in the vows). The Fast Care visit approximately twice a year takes care of the earwax buildup.
posted by theraflu at 4:43 AM on February 1, 2010

Here is a good overview of earwax and the methods used to control it.

I sit because the cold water in my ear can throw off my balance.

Which is why you should use likewarm (approximately body temp) water. Cold water in the ear is such a powerful stimulus that it is actually used to help test for brain death.
posted by TedW at 5:28 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: FWIW, I have this problem too - right ear constantly full of wax, sticky, itchy and if I get the tiniest bit congested, very painful. This came to breaking point 2 weeks ago to the day, and I bought a Murine kit, which did diddly-squat. The next day I used the ear dropper in that kit and a 50-50 (lukewarm) water and hydrogen peroxide mixture and it worked in 1 try, taking about 10 minutes.

My technique is to dropper some mix into the ear, then sit for awhile with my head tilted (affected ear as close to straight up as is comfortable for my neck) so the mixture stays in, while I enjoy the bubbling and fizzing. It isn't painful, and in fact very enjoyable because I imagine it is the sound of hydrogen peroxide zapping ear wax into the ear-wax afterlife. It is the sound and feeling of impending relief. Once the fizzing stops, I go back into the bathroom and use a solution of plain water (again, comfortably warm). I turn my affected ear facing down over the sink, and use the bulb to squirt with gentle pressure to wash the peroxide out. Then I pat my outer ear dry, and walk around in amazement at all the things I can suddenly hear. Birds! My neighbor's television! A baby crying across the street!

I need to do this kind of frequently - I could almost use it again today, exactly 2 weeks later. But since it is dirt-cheap, at home, quick and easy, I don't really mind. I think for me, at least, more permanent solutions might need to involve my doctor.
posted by bunnycup at 6:03 AM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just as a side note-- I recently ended up at the ENT with super muffled hearing that didn't go away with Debrox and ear irrigation- I was also using foam ear plugs at night. Turned out I had cleaned my ear so thoroughly that all the good bacteria died, and the foam earplugs dried the canals out so well, that it allowed fungus to flourish.

Horrifyingly enough, I couldn't hear because I had an ear full of mold. You might want to see the doctor just to make sure your problem is ear wax and not otomycosis. If it's the latter, you're making it worse by cleaning your ear more!
posted by headspace at 6:18 AM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

A few thoughts:

1. You may actually be overusing those drops. I did a similar thing, and when I finally got to the doctor she found they had left a sticky dark residue on my eardrums. It was really not fun to have her scrape it away, though I could hear much better afterward.
2. Be aware that ear stoppages can very quickly switch to a blindingly painful impaction, and if this happens you'll end up in emergency care (again, speaking from experience here). A routine scheduled visit is likely to cost far less, and you could probably even negotiate a discount if you explain the situation and offer to pay cash upfront, especially since it is such a simple procedure.
3. In the future, you can avoid stoppages entirely by simply putting a drop of olive or mineral oil in each ear every day.
4. A small water gun, as long as you are careful, actually works better than the bulbs for irrigation.
posted by susanvance at 8:19 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have no idea if this is dangerous and will probably rupture your eardrum, but I finally succeeded when I used the bulb to suck rather than blow, if that makes sense. Irrigate, then see if you can suction it out with the bulb. Seeing that enormous clump of wax finally come out on the end of that thing was one of the most satisfying moments of my life. :-)
posted by callmejay at 8:43 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I suffer from the same is it ever tiresome.

If the Debrox isn't doing a darn thing, you could try liquid laxative--I think it's a children's version or something. They had to use that once at the doctor's office because the lump in there was extremely stubborn.

As far as the ear bulb usage goes, just nth-ing what others have said, what works for me is putting in the drops 10 minutes before a shower, than just powering away with the bulb in the shower until I can hear again. It sometimes takes 5 minutes of using that thing until I get it all out.

Good luck!
posted by Zoyashka at 9:06 AM on February 1, 2010

Best answer: I also use a syringe with warm water, head tilted so that the ear I am squirting into is facing down. Usually I do this after a hot shower so that things are already loosened up. For what it's with, this is on the advice of a doctor at an urgent care clinic I went to on Christmas day two years ago because I could. Not. Hear. Out of my right ear. At all. He said that it was safe to do once a month, and also cautioned against using the debrox ear drops more than one week total per month because of the aforementioned irritation problems.

I sort of aim toward the top of the ear canal when I do this, as I've found that angle to be the most effective and, for some reason, the least likely to cause me concern about hurting my ear drum. I never never never stick anything in my ear. The various doctors I have had treat this have always used warm water. One said something about those loop instruments not working well with the wet and sticky earwax that I have - I believe he also mentioned something about increased impaction.

Regardless, I would try again with a bit more force and warmer water. It takes some practice to figure out the best angle for your ear. Good luck!
posted by betty botter at 9:06 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like the ototek loop mentioned above. It's got a little collar to keep you from sticking it too far into your ear, and you can be quite gentle while scraping the wax out. I've never felt like I was jamming wax further into my ear with it, but I'm pretty careful to keep to the outer part of my ear canal.

I've also used Murine Earigate, and it's nifty because the design of the nozzle means the spray is directed back out your ear, instead of toward your ear drum. I didn't have much luck with it, but using it was pretty foolproof.
posted by mgar at 9:40 AM on February 1, 2010

Best answer: One of my ear canals is overly curved, so the wax has trouble getting out naturally and always clogs up. So I am sadly familiar with your issue! As soon as I notice that my hearing is getting muffled in that ear, here's my routine.

Soften the wax with olive oil. Yes, just regular olive oil you have in your kitchen. The softer you can get it, the easier it will be to clear out, so if you can stand waiting, do the olive oil for 3 days before you try to irrigate. Irrigating hard, compacted wax is difficult and hurts. Lie down on your side with the affected ear up, and drip some olive oil into your ear. About a teaspoon or so, basically fill it up :) Wait 15 minutes, then stand up and clean up the excess that drips out. Repeat twice a day for 3 days. Now your wax should be nicely softened, and it won't damage your ear canal like that nasty fizzing stuff can sometimes do. Now, use the bulb syringe with warm water, body temperature-ish. Do this over a sink or in the shower if you like - hang your head sideways so the affected ear is down, and squirt the water into your ear with the bulb as hard as you can. Repeat until a big glob of wax falls out. Small chunks may come out first. Even after the big glob comes out, do it a couple more times to get the last bits. It takes me maybe 20 or more squirts to get the plug out (because the bulb syringes are weak), but you can tell when its worked because a) ewww! giant blob of wax! and b) OMG I can hear!
posted by Joh at 10:39 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've had this problem regularly, as well! It's very comforting to know so many others can commiserate.

When I had to go to one doctor every several months because of this problem, I noticed that he was just using debrox-ish stuff, and then a water pik. So, after a trip to the emergency room when I was in terrible pain in one ear, a few hours with a nurse using the syringe method, and a big bill in the mail a few weeks later, I got myself a water pik. Now, I use the Ototek Loop (I had no idea it had a name!!!) after I shower, and if the problem is so bad that I have hearing issues, I use the water pik myself.

(IANAD, and the fact that no one else recommended the water pik makes me a tiny bit nervous, but the ER doctor did seem to think it was a fine idea.)
posted by violetish at 1:34 PM on February 1, 2010

violetish, my husband also uses a water pik, on the advice of his doctor. He uses it at a higher setting, with warm water and peroxide, with no problems at all.

I have tried to use it myself as well, but I have to turn it to the least strong setting and even then can barely handle it for very long at all.
posted by misha at 2:31 PM on February 1, 2010

Response by poster: If anyone happens back here and reads this far down (probably not): Is it possible it could be an ear infection? I'm not prone to ear infections and there's no pain or discharge or anything that would leave me to think that it's anything other than the usual earwax buildup. Except that it's not clearing up in a reasonable amount of time, as it USUALLY does with just the drops. And the muffledness in the one ear. All the symptoms I've had before, it's just the fact that it's not going away with the usual treatment. I'm starting to get panicked. Does it sound like it COULD be an infection? Can ear infections be treated at home without going to the doctor and getting some kind of prescription? It's just.. I don't have a couple hundred dollars to go to the doctor and have something done about it.

I have the same Murine kit that bunnycup mentions. I did another round of the drops today. I have been using the drops since I was a kid, so I know how to use them. As far as I can tell, neither the Debrox nor the Murine drops (neither were expired or anything) that I have used since since this latest problem started have fizzed as they have in the past.. in either ear. I attempted to use the bulb again today. I only did it a few times in each ear (literally no more than three squirts of water in each ear). I don't believe anything came out, and my hearing in my left ear (the problem ear this time around) hasn't become any less muffled.

headspace - What sort of treatment did the doctor give you for the otomycosis? Up until yesterday, I have only used the drops as treatment. No water up until that point. I stopped using the earplugs as soon as I realized my hearing was going downhill and I didn't use the drops to treat it until after I stopped wearing earplugs. So, they didn't coincide at all..

Head tilted DOWN. Okay, I didn't do that. Twenty or more squirts?! Okay, I only did two or three per ear! I'll give it another try tomorrow in the shower. I did see the Murine Earigate on the shelf, and I considered buying that instead, but it was almost double the price of the bulb kit, so I thought I'd give the cheaper bulb a try first.

violetish - I've read of other people using a Water Pik (and doctors recommending them), so definitely don't be nervous! As long as it's working for you, it seems to be just fine!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:28 PM on February 1, 2010

Response by poster: headspace - I just googled otomycosis, and one link mentions the symptoms 'severe discomfort' and 'pain'. Did you experience that? I have no discernable discomfort, pain, or pressure.. Would that make otomycosis less likely? Would that make some sort of an ear infection (as I asked about in my last comment) less likely? Any irritation I DO have there is from a combination of the drops and the cotton balls and jabbing my finger in the outer area over the last week.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:50 PM on February 1, 2010

Are you having trouble equalizing pressure in your ear, like on a plane changing altitude quickly? That's usually my first sign of the earwax problem, not muffled hearing as in, things are quieter. One of my ears usually before the other will become difficult to equalize, especially after exercise. When that's going on I get a weird sound sensation like I'm trying to talk with my finger in my ear (try that, it's very annoying and makes you talk funny.) My own voice is actually much louder in the affected ear.

Try holding your nose and "blowing" out your ears through your eustachian tubes (not sure how to describe this maneuver any better.) When I'm having this problem, I get a definite sensation of something in my inner ear holding pressure when I alternate pressure and vacuum in my ear while holding my nose. It usually makes it go away for a while longer if I can succeed at equalizing my ear pressure, though.
posted by ctmf at 11:03 PM on February 1, 2010

Response by poster: Yes, I have the weird sound sensation. My voice sounds much closer than it usually does. I can hear general noises (appliances, the computer, outside noises). They're quieter, but I can hear them. I'm having trouble hearing people talking to me and the television. I kind of feel like.. you know when you're sick and your head feels like a balloon? I feel like that, but just on that side of my head. And my voice is a little echo-y, but just in that one ear... and it sounds much closer. And I can feel the vibrations when I speak, which you don't normally notice so clearly. So, yes, my voice is louder in the affected ear! So, that's earwax definitely, you think?

The one thing that made me hear a little better was actually sticking my finger in my ear and kind of.. holding it open.. I guess at the opening of the canal. I'm not an expert on the ear parts. Just at the very opening, if I hold it and push up (fairly gently) that kind of opens, and I can hear better temporarily. I don't know what that means, though. My voice is more 'normal' then, too.
posted by Mael Oui at 12:07 AM on February 2, 2010

According to my ENT, most people don't have severe pain with otomycosis. He said that's why it manages to progress so far that hearing loss occurs. It's painless, and your ear just gets fuller and fuller of the spores.

The treatment was as follows:

Doctor completely cleaned the ear, and sent me home with a prescription for clotrimazole drops (super cheap in generic, they use it to treat ringworm, jock itch, and athlete's foot.) 4 drops in the ear, 3 times a day, follow up in a week for another cleaning.

(Once you kill the fungus, it crusts up and they have to clean it out so you don't seed your ear for future growth.) Now I have 2 more weeks of drops in that ear to go. After 2 weeks of this, my hearing is almost back to normal.

And this is anecdata, but a few days before I went to the doc, I used the Debrox again and it didn't foam. My ear also felt muffled, but my own voice sounded very loud in it. Pulling on my earlobes let me hear a bit better as well.
posted by headspace at 9:44 PM on February 2, 2010

Best answer: Re. the Ototek Loop:

First, let me reiterate that by the standards of this thread, my ear blockage problems are nonexistent at best to nuisance at worst. No idea how the thing does for people with more severe problems.

Is it really safe? Well, I think so, and the MD who designed it does, but if you want to be 100% sure, you may want to bring one to your next medical appointment. The idea is that the disk prevents you from inserting the loop far enough to hit your eardrum. My understanding is that it's short enough that anyone over 16 needn't worry about that, but they say to talk to your doctor if you've had ear surgery.

Does it hurt? What does it feel like? No, and not much, really. It feels kinda . . . scrapy, I guess. Not painful--I'd say it's as about as uncomfortable as flossing, if that. I did notice that my Ototek Loop had some flash on it, which I filed off. It was much easier to use after that.

My wholly uninformed opinion is that manually extracting the earwax seems to be the most efficient way to get the stuff out of there, but that there may be a risk (if your ears are really plugged up) that you could end up pushing the wax further in and impacting it against your eardrum. Like I said, I've never been that prolific in the cerumen department, so I can't claim any experience about this happening.
posted by tellumo at 10:58 PM on February 2, 2010

Response by poster: Ooh, thank you headspace AND tellumo! I was hoping to hear (err.. read) more about otomycosis and the ototek loop since those were two topics I hadn't considered. I'm still not really sure what's going on. I haven't had any kind of improvement in the more impacted ear. I have used another round of Murine drops in there, but I really think it's either 1) so impacted that a professional irrigation is inevitable, 2) possibly more sinus related, or 3) otomycosis (or something else ENT-related.. of a non-waxy nature). I think I have no choice but to go to a doctor. I don't think I'll be able to do this until the weather cooperates, though. Thank you all for your responses! There were some that I actually do plan on marking as 'best answer,' and I'll come back and do that in a few days, I promise!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:36 PM on February 7, 2010

I hope you feel better soon, Mael Oui! Please do let us know what the ENT says! I'm dying to know what's in your head!
posted by headspace at 11:59 AM on February 8, 2010

Response by poster: I FINALLY took care of this, and just for completeness' sake (if anyone should have a similar situation), I went to the clinic at Walgreen's. I had ear wax in one ear and was irrigated, but the left ear (which was the muffled ear that I thought had REALLY impacted ear wax) actually had a middle ear infection. I was put on a three-day antibiotic treatment. So, if you have this experience and no luck with the treatments I've highlighted above (as best answers - because I was especially looking for ear wax advice), it might be an easily-treatable infection. The Walgreen's clinic was very easy and painless, and the cost for the irrigation was $75.00 (just fyi, ear eax sufferers!).
posted by Mael Oui at 10:41 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

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