Ear­wax hor­ror sto­ries: from buds to onions

Upper Hutt Leader - - FRONT PAGE - RACHEL THOMAS

From bobby pins to onions, it seems peo­ple will stick al­most any­thing in their ears.

Ex­perts have long said that cot­ton buds should never be used for clean­ing out ear­wax, yet the health sys­tem con­tin­ues to fork out for dam­age peo­ple have caused to their ears by us­ing them.

But it’s not just cot­ton buds do­ing the dam­age: an Up­per Hutt man who had an ear in­fec­tion took to slic­ing up an onion and ram­ming it into his ear be­cause he had read it was a good rem­edy. It got stuck.

‘‘Onion and gar­lic is good for ear health, but it means eat­ing it,’’ Kelly Hick­ling, of Up­per Hutt Hear­ing Con­sul­tants, said.

In the United States, the Medi­care pro­gramme paid out nearly $47 mil­lion in 2012 for more than a mil­lion removals of ear­wax balls, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­na­tional media.

ACC did not have New Zealand fig­ures to hand and the Min­istry of Health does not record such data, but Hear­ing Con­sul­tants ear nurse Denise Walker said ‘‘our clin­ics are full’’.

Not all of those block­ages were caused by rogue ear-clean­ers, but their pick­ing and scratch­ing is cer­tainly part of the prob­lem.

‘‘I’m sure that’s what our grand­par­ents used to do, and a lot of them walked around stonedeaf,’’ Walker said.

She had seen pa­tients who had three ends of cot­ton buds stuck in their ear canals.

Then there was the time she suc­tioned out an eraser from the end of a pen­cil, and an ear plug a mother had tried to re­move from her daugh­ter’s ear with pli­ers.

You can al­ways tell when some­one’s taken a bite of the for­bid­den fruit, Cathy Fer­gu­son, ear, nose and throat spe­cial­ist at Cap­i­tal & Coast DHB said. ‘‘You can see an im­print of the bud.’’

Kiwi com­pany Go Bam­boo, which man­u­fac­tures cot­ton buds, said it in­cluded a warn­ing on its pack­ag­ing that peo­ple should not put the buds in their ears.

‘‘One, it’s to ed­u­cate peo­ple. It can do some dam­age, so it’s best that you don’t,’’ chief ex­ec­u­tive Mick Wil­liams said.

Where peo­ple put cot­ton buds was up to them, he said, but com­mon sense should be ap­plied. ’’We don’t have a warn­ing telling them not to stick them in their eye.’’

Suc­tion was the best and gen­tlest method of re­mov­ing un­com­fort­able wax, as sy­ring­ing could dam­age sen­si­tive ear drums, Walker said.

Cot­ton buds should never be used for clean­ing out ear­wax.

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