I think my earring hole closed -- what now?
April 13, 2011 6:29 PM   Subscribe

My ear piercing is closing after TWENTY YEARS? What do I do?

Okay, so as recently as five weeks ago I was wearing earrings with no problem. (Standard piercing in ear lobe, done when I was nine.) Intermittently, once every couple weeks, maybe. Once I went six years without wearing any, no problems. I'm currently pregnant and spent about five weeks sick (upper respiratory virus, eventually pneumonia). Didn't wear any earrings while sick, didn't think anything of it because I've not worn them for ages longer in the past. Better now, went to put in earrings for an event the other night, and couldn't get them in! The hole in the back of the ear feels closed, and it's still kinda hurty two days later if I feel the back where there's a bump where the hole ought to be. (Same problem both ears but I spent more time fussing at the right one since I'm right handed, that's the one that hurts more.)

Has this happened to anyone before? Is this some kind of awesome pregnancy inflammatory response that will go away? Or have my earring holes closed in the back? (And if so, WHY???? After 20+ years, what gives?)

And what is my best solution here? Should I just leave it until I'm unpregnant? (Although lord knows it'll be six months after giving birth before I can cope with it if I do ...) Do I go see my GP and say, "Hey, can you lidocaine up my ear and poke a needle through?" Or do I try and do it myself? I'm not sure I have it in me.

I miss my earrings; my fingers are too bloated for my rings so I like to wear a pair my husband gave me since my wedding ring won't fit. So I would like a solution, though I can suck it up and wait six months after birth or whatever if I have to.
posted by Eyebrows McGee to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This happened to a good friend of mine. She is around 50 and hers closed after 20something years as well. I went with her to a tattoo parlor a couple months ago and they pierced them with wires -- through the original holes. My friend is wimpy when it comes to this kind of thing and she didn't feel a thing. It took literally seconds and was easy as pie. I highly recommend this technique. It is better than a "gun", in my humble opinion. My friend initially asked her dermatologist to pierce them and he said no, he doesn't do that. (They were originally pierced by a doctor back when she first had them pierced.)
posted by Fairchild at 6:39 PM on April 13, 2011

Not to gross you out, but how hard did you try? I never wear earrings but when I've had to (because I'm in a wedding or something after years without wearing them) I just forced it. There was resistance - but no bleeding or anything - because the amount of skin is so small. That's just my (admittedly gross) experience, but it might be simpler than you think.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:43 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

ALTHOUGH MAYBE that's bad! I don't know! I'm not a doctor or anything - just, for me, I could put the post in but the back of my lobe had healed over and it was a trivial matter to push through that, given that the piercing itself was still present. So maybe that's how it is for you - just an anecdote.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:53 PM on April 13, 2011

Best answer: Don't worry, this is likely not a big deal at all. I just had my ear piercings redone, after over 10 years without wearing earrings. Just go to a good, upscale piercing studio and explain the situation, and they'll run a sterile needle through each ear. In my case, it took about 1 minute total and they didn't even charge me (though they warned me that some places would take advantage of the situation and charge it as a piercing). There wasn't any blood or anything, just a little plug of dead skin cells from each side.

Since you're pregnant, maybe double check with your doctor to be sure, but a good, reputable studio will follow very careful safety standards - the examination room in the one I went to reminded me of a hospital.
posted by susanvance at 6:53 PM on April 13, 2011

I'm going to second moxiedoll - you might just need to push a little harder. I once found stainless-steel piercing studs at the drugstore that have posts that taper to a sharp point (because they are meant to go into a piercing gun). I hadn't worn earrings for months and months and I was able to shove those in. Amazon has them here.
posted by janepanic at 6:54 PM on April 13, 2011

Best answer: As far as trying to do it yourself, if you're kind of nervous about just punching the earring through again -- you might try first numbing the lobe, getting a piece of cork and holding it against the back of the earlobe and pulling the earlobe tight, and then pushing the earring through. The cork kind of holds the lobe in place and gives you something to aim for so you're less likely to jab the inside of your ear, and pulling the ear tight ensures the smallest amount of skin to have to go through. I've done that to put new piercings in my ears (using a needle); if you've only got a small layer of skin to get through it shouldn't be a major thing at all. Of course wash and disinfect all your implements (and your ear) well before and after.
posted by frobozz at 6:58 PM on April 13, 2011

I had my ears pierced when I was a baby and stopped wearing them around 7. 20 years laters I decided to start wearing them again, holes never closed.

My daughter had her's pierced at around 3 months. We took the earrings out and over the course of two weeks her holes closed.

I thought about repiercing them, but decided to try myself first (she has a high pain tolerance and is a very patient child). I disinfected her ear and earrings, pulled the ear taut and pushed through the back.

Took a bit of pressure to get the hole open again, but it worked. She said it didn't hurt ( I kept asking her throughout the whole ordeal!) and it was super easy.
posted by Sweetmag at 7:05 PM on April 13, 2011

I thought this happened to me a couple of times but in reality I was just missing the hole at the back. Something about the way they've healed means for two out of my three piercings I can put it through the front hole then kind of wiggle it around in there before it gets through the back hole, so I have to be extra careful about aiming it when I put it in. A second try with more care and often a mirror to make sure it's going in the correct place always lets the earring back in. If I scratch the inside by wriggling around too much then it gets a bit sore and swollen back there, presumably from physical irritation.

This may or may not have happened to you. However, unless you're 100% sure there is no possibility of it I wouldn't try pushing the earring through in case you end up ripping the hole bigger or aiming wrong or something. The small bump you described is definitely some kind of minor localised inflammation, probably due to your attempt to put in the earring, and I imagine it will also make it that much more difficult to get the post through the hole cleanly.

Add in the difficulties of really properly sterilising everything and I think you're much better off getting a professional to quickly re-pierce it using a sterile needle as others have described above. They will definitely get it straight, it will hurt less (it at all), and have less chance of infection, all of which means it will heal up nice and quickly. It sounds like it will be free or very cheap and will be over very fast, so you can probably do it now if you think you're up to it.
posted by shelleycat at 7:12 PM on April 13, 2011

I had this happen to me in my 20s when I was playing a lot of sports and not wearing earrings as much. I just used my original hypoallergenic earrings that they had pierced my ears with (pointed at the end) and shoved them through. It was sore for a couple of days but no bleeding and I just put hydrogen peroxide on them for those couple of days and was good to go. As long as the front of your holes are not closed up you should be OK, but IANAD.
posted by garnetgirl at 7:12 PM on April 13, 2011

Best answer: Happened to me too, nothing to do with pregnancy. Just push harder and they'll pop through. It will hurt a little, and may stay irritated for a few days (just like you've reported).

Since this is not something you want to deal with repeatedly, how about getting some earrings you can leave in for a long time? A piercing studio will have something like these, which are usually called nostril rings but can be worn as earrings. The gem is set on a thin wire, which fits snugly into a hollow shaft that has a small bead permanently attached at the other end. You push the shaft through your ear from back to front, and the gem slides into the bore. (This is a little awkward to do yourself, so ask the studio to do it when you buy the earrings. They'll use a blunt wire to re-open the holes, then slide the shafts in painlessly.) The little bead at the back is so small you can sleep on it, talk on the phone, etc - you'll never feel it.

If you get something simple, like a colorless brilliant-cut gem, it will go with nearly everything. And you'll be one step ahead of the game when you get dressed every morning: +1 for efficiency!
posted by Quietgal at 7:22 PM on April 13, 2011

Try putting in the earring from the back of your lobe. I find that with my intermittent earring wearing, it's not so much that the holes are closing as it is that the holes somehow become misaligned. Whenever I can't get them in from the front, trying from the back (then setting the earring to right when I know the hole is clear) usually does the trick.
posted by cecic at 7:26 PM on April 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My second set of piercings closed up a bit after I didn't wear earrings in them for probably six or eight years. When I tried to put in a pair of studs and they only went halfway, I started freaking out. But when I switched to some really thin wire dangles, they went with just a little resistance at the back, and now I've got them back to normal. So maybe try with really thin earrings first?
posted by specialagentwebb at 7:35 PM on April 13, 2011

I have two holes through one of my ears. The hole in that ear hadn't closed, but I was a kid with limited patience and I knew there was a hole there and there was resistance... so I just pushed the earring on through. The opening at front and back is actually the same, there are just two routes through the lobe.

So yeah, just forcing it...may not be the best option, really. You might go through the original hole, you might miss.
posted by galadriel at 7:43 PM on April 13, 2011

Best answer: I have this problem now and again, esp. if I wear earrings that irritate my lobes - they seem to swell or something. Try rubbing in some triple-antibiotic ointment first. And if you have any studs (like the ones they sell at the mall at piercing shops), or nice straight-post earrings with locking backs, try putting those in again in a day or two and wear them 24/7 for awhile. I have to push pretty hard some days.
posted by hms71 at 7:47 PM on April 13, 2011

Best answer: This happened to me during my pregnancy, and my midwife smiled and nodded, then told me that it happened enough to her patients that she had developed a recommendation. She sent me to the grocery store for anbesol and to a cheap ear piercing shop for some piercing studs. After putting a local on my earlobe(I actually used something else from work, i'm a vet), I popped the stud through and kept it in for a couple days. It was a bit sore, but I was glad to be able to wear earrings again.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 8:01 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It may also help to try easing the earrings in immediately after showering, while your lobes are nice and soft. It helps me get my nose stud back in when I have to take it out to play soccer.
posted by cholly at 8:03 PM on April 13, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, I am super-glad I asked. (I wasn't sure if I'd get answers!) Lots of things to try, most of them non-terrifying. I think I'll let the swelling/irritation recede for another day or two before I try anything and then start from what seem like the least elaborate/painful methods first and work my way up until something works. Please feel free to keep suggesting, it'll be a couple days before I try anything!

I never would have thought of using anbesol (I thought of using ice, but not anbesol), and I never would have thought of going to an actual piercing place! (I had the mall special.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:21 PM on April 13, 2011

I'd forgotten about going in from the back as cecic suggests, but it's a really good way to find out if you're having a 'closed up' problem or a misalignment one, and it's the least invasive of everything so try that first.
posted by shelleycat at 8:27 PM on April 13, 2011

Best answer: With me, if I leave my earrings out for a while, sometimes gunk builds up in there, and it's basically a plug of that which is stopping up the hole, and not regrowth. Squeezing it out (along with bathing it in alcohol and sterilizing the earrings before they go in and lubing it with an antibiotic ointment just in case) makes it work.

OTOH, I have one piercing that I stopped bothering with a decade ago, and discovered it was still perfectly open when I accidentally put an earring in it when not facing a mirror.
posted by telophase at 8:58 PM on April 13, 2011

I had my ears pierced when I was about twenty and by my mid-twenties had stopped wearing earrings. When I was about thirty I tried putting one in and had the same problem you did. But with enough pushing and prodding I finally was able to get it through. POSSIBLY GROSS: There was some resistance, like the skin had actually grown over, and a teeny tiny bit of pain, followed by some watery liquid that dripped out, not blood.

Just change the angle of your poking, and you should find the hole eventually. Look at it in the mirror, that should make it much easier.
posted by zardoz at 9:35 PM on April 13, 2011

I had some ear piercing difficulty as a kid, and either...my uncle who was a doctor or a mall piercing place employee recommended going in through the back. It smarted a bit, but nothing too upsetting.

I also ended up with some kind of "Ear Sterilizer," which in retrospect was probably just hydrogen peroxide or something. I imagine some straight post earrings, antibiotic ointment, and some gentle pushing through the back of your lobe would be the adult version.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 10:12 PM on April 13, 2011

Best answer: The way the holes heal, they gradually get narrower and narrower. So it could be that your earrings are just too thick, and thinner ones will "re-open" the hole.
I used to work as a body-piercer, and what we'd recommend for something like this would be to try putting a tiny dab of lubricant on your thinnest earrings, and seeing if that will go through. DO it after a shower, as suggested earlier.
Most people found that solved the problem.
posted by indienial at 1:28 AM on April 14, 2011

You're pregnant; don't force a piece of blunt metal through your already-irritated earlobes and wait for a "pop." Oh my lord. Don't go around chasing infections. Some women's bodies just reject piercings of any kind when pregnant. It's not uncommon. Lots of grown out navel and eyebrow piercings.

As the above piercer mentioned, the holes are probably not closed; they're probably just narrowed. Go to a reputable piercing shop, and they can taper the holes open safely, with sterile autoclaved equipment, and put in CBRs made of high-quality metal to keep in permanently through your pregnancy.

Please, for your own safety and that of your future-kiddo, don't just numb your earlobes and pop something sharp through them.
posted by juniperesque at 6:31 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

what we'd recommend for something like this would be to try putting a tiny dab of lubricant on your thinnest earrings

Seconded. I have had to do this a few times. The lubrication is key!
posted by kmennie at 8:47 AM on April 14, 2011

Response by poster: Eee! You guys are the best! I got them in!

I carefully cleaned and put neosporin on the backs of my ears last night, to try to exfoliate and in case there was any infection. I took a late afternoon shower today, again carefully cleaning my ears, and after the shower I disinfected and lubricated my stud earrings with the thinnest posts (which I also know I can sleep in comfortably) and too a very careful straight shot ... and yay! Got them in! Both ears! No problem!

I never would have thought to try inserting them after a shower, I definitely would have been thinking ice. You guys saved me weirdly awkward calls to my doctor over something that turned out to be NO BIG DEAL.

I'm going to mark a bunch of best answers; next I would have tried my thinnest wire earrings (I don't have a lot of earrings -- a handful of studs and a couple of "dangly" ones on wires that I definitely could not sleep in!), then anbesol and coming at it from the back, then possibly force (depending on how wimpy I was feeling), then probably waiting until after I had the baby and going to a piercing parlor.

(And don't worry, I have so few earrings they're almost all 14K or 18K posts; I don't really have any irritating metals so I don't have to worry about leaving these in a while!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:41 PM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

« Older Need help IDing a sci-fi novel about the building...   |   Aloha bartender! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.