Earwax horror stories: from buds to onions
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.