Trick of the trade

A friend’s dad was struggling with plugged ears. The VA wanted him to drive to LA to have them evaluated. Rather than take the trip, my friend asked me to have a gander at dad in a Denny’s parking lot. Sure enough. Wax.

Very few things in medicine make patients happy so quick. Ear wax removal and shoulder reductions may be the top two. But neither are rocket science. For wax removal in particular, you mainly need a friend, some gear and a little patience.

Start with a cheap CVS otoscope and look at some ears. Wax plugs aren’t subtle. When you’ve found your target, then drip in Cerumex or Debrox. Or better yet, poke a hole in a Colace geltab and pour the oil into the plugged up ear. Keep the ear pointed to the sky or plug it with a cotton ball. Then wait an hour.

When ready, remove the cotton and start irrigating with lukewarm water. (For you scientist/thrill seekers, cold water will make the room spin one way. Hot water the other. And your patient may puke.) So best to do seated with ear over a sink or tub, and plenty of towels. Go slow and ease in.

I use the Rhino Ear Washer (No personal $ gain here). When ready for use, I direct the nozzle and pull the target ear to straighten the canal. I then encourage patients to squeeze the lever themselves to be able to control their own discomfort. It’s possible to self irrigate too with a little practice. Many other expensive products out there but this one works well.

When I first met Vanessa she thought her ears were pristine, because she was a Q-tip freak. But she was mistaken. The worst plugs seem to happen in Q-tip people, so beware those things and don’t go deep. Now she’s an otoscope freak and likes checking the ears of anyone who says “Que?”

Why tell you all this? Well, you can certainly pay us a couple hundred bucks to come to you for a cleaning. It’s always a pleasure. Or you can drive to LA for a “specialist”.

Or for about $50 you can be your household expert with a useful skill that may help you weather a future Thanksgiving.

Anyways, part of our mission is teaching to fish right? So enjoy!

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