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The pain of cerumen discharge – when your ear acts up

For 11 years now, I’ve been battling with cerumen (ear wax) congestion which has not been favourable to my health. On different occasions, I’ve had both ears flushed as a result of ear wax discharge, which does not come with good experience.

The ear wax, which is also known by the medical term ‘cerumen’ is a grey, orange, red, yellowish, waxy substance secreted in the inner ear canal of humans and other mammals. It protects the skin of human ear canal, assists in cleaning and lubrication, and also provides protection against bacteria, fungi, insects and water.

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The wax is produced by sebaceous and ceruminous glands in the ear canal, which leads from outer ear to the eardrum. And it helps protects the ear by trapping dust and other foreign particles that could filter through and damage the eardrum.

In early 2008, I was in JSS3 preparing to sit for junior WAEC at the Command Secondary School Jos when I first experienced the ear blockage and the syringing. I became nervous whether I could possibly hear again. Astonishingly, I went for ear culture and I had both ears flushed.

One morning while in SS1, I felt the familiar symptoms of excess wax in the ear. When I woke up, it was blocked. The pain was severe and agonising. I witnessed sunrise and sunset; there was no napping in the day time, nor sleep at night; it was an all-through sleepless moment.

I went back to hospital for the flushing routine.

When I had nearly forgotten about the ear blockage, wax odyssey, it came again. It became an annual ritual of blockage and flushing. I was advised to try a traditional method to help mitigate the pain, which is to use liquid extracted from onion, olive oil, garlic and others which I can’t recall.

I used all the native remedy yet to no avail, I reluctantly had to revert to the regular flushing.

I travelled down to Abuja for better and comprehensive treatment. The story was the same. But the treatment was more technical and advanced. I got the chance to see the middle part of my ear on a screen which shows clearly the discharged wax. It was a terrible experience! Bemused, I wondered what causes all that.

I became stoic. I felt I didn’t need to flush the ear, I felt the need to flush it, because I needed my hearing so badly.

Eventually, I was overwhelmed and had to flush the ear, at that time, for the 4th time in 2011.

Excessive earwax is a major concern, because it impedes sound waves into the ear canal which causes mild conducive hearing loss, pain in the ear, itches, perhaps even dizziness.

It happened again in 2013 during my first year in the university. It began to create a lacuna between myself and my colleagues.

People felt repulsed when they speak to me and I don’t respond. Unknown to them, I couldn’t quite hear them.

In Katsina alone, during my four years of schooling, I had three flushes. I visited the National Ear Centre, and it was the same story. I kept searching for a solution. The ugliest experience came on 13 August 2018 – a thin line between life and death. A referral to an ear-nose-and-throat clinic on account of blocked right ear brought up a diagnosis of impact cerumen in my right ear. Another flushing!

Three days, I was back in hospital with pain in and discharge from both ears. An ear swab culture showed the bacterium pseudomonas. I was placed on ear drop, analgesic, and antibiotics.

At around 6:30pm one evening, just before I went for Magrib, I couldn’t stand the pain. The mental agony had me hospitalised immediately — for the first time in my life.

The only thing I recall now was the diclofenac injection the doctor gave me. Every other story would be told by my mother, who was there with me.

Pseudomonas bacteria are found widely in the environment, such as in soil, water and plants.  They generally do not cause an infection in healthy people; if an infection occurs in a healthy person, it is generally mild.

An extreme ear canal infection may sometimes be caused by pseudomonas and result in “swimmer’s ear” apparently the reason why I’ve been battling with ear blockage. Swimming has been my favourite hobby long before now, and I’ve had to relinquish it for healthy and better living.

The symptoms may include swelling, ear pain, itching, discharge from the ear and difficulty in hearing. All these symptoms mentioned, I’ve witnessed them, except for the swelling of the ear.

The ear wax discharge, however, is natural in human body. The ear naturally cleanses itself.

 

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