Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate: Dr. Cynthia Speaks!

Topic: Caregivers-, Ears, Earwax and Eldercare

There was a point when I would call mommy and she would be slow to answer. “Mommy, what are ya watching on TV?” There would be no answer. “MOMMY, why are you ignoring me?” Reply: “I heard you saying something, but I could not make out all of what you said.” I would often joke with mommy saying things like “stop acting like an old lady…you know you hear me.” Oh the Memories!

When someone has been taking care of themselves, we assume they are paying attention to all the open areas of the body…RIGHT? Well, at one point in time, we had a hearing problem with mommy. Guess why? She was experiencing diminished hearing resulting from earwax buildup.

Do not go straight for the hearing aids until you have assessed the earwax!

Earwax, also known as cerumen (the medical term), is a waxy substance secreted in the ear canal. It is brownish-yellow, and orange in color and soft. It protects the skin of the ear canal. Its major role along with the tiny hairs along the ear canals provide cleaning, lubrication, and protection against things like warding off bacteria, fungus, and water. When earwax is unable to perform its duty due to buildup, or earwax blockage (hardened ear wax) that covers the opening in the ears, this can cause hearing loss.

We have been told all our lives not to stick things in our ears. But you were never told not to clean them. In the elderly, however, hearing loss can be the result of their ears not cleaned correctly over the years. Another issue that has been documented as a problem is, individuals trying to remove earwax using things like bobby pins, cotton swabs and other strange objects placed in the ears. These habits can also push earwax deeper into the ear’s canal, creating blockages and major damage to your ears. A trip to the ear, nose and throat doctor(also known as and ENT or an otolaryngologist) who cleaned out mommy ears and that was all it took.

When cleaning your care recipient’s ears and your, only clean the outer expect of the ear canals. For more difficult ear wax(hardened) there are over the counter drops that are helpful. Note: Always check with your healthcare practitioner before using substances that have been suggested like:

· mineral oil

· hydrogen peroxide

· carbamide peroxide

· baby oil

· glycerin

Remember, before going for the hearing aids, check for EARWAX!

Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman is author and speaker. Her book: From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor shares caregiving tips.