It’s evening. All hands on deck. I have to join my staff at the non-drug section to attend to the customers. Here comes Papa Ebuka.
“Good evening sir. How you dey? How family?”
“Fine o. I wan buy cottin”
“Ehen nah. Cuttin whey dem dey use clean ear”
“Oh ok.” I go to the shelf where cotton buds are kept and pick up one.
“This one?” I show him
“Yes o. Give me original one. I no wan the one whey go comot wool for inside ear. Ehen, bring that one whey dey for inside container”
I hand him his order. I am a bit concerned.
“Sir, no vex. Wetin you wan use cotton bud do?”
“Hmm na my pikin. E be like say dirty dey block him ear. Him no dey hear word like before.”
Now I am a lot concerned.
“Na because of that you wan buy cotton bud?”
“Yes. Abi e no good?”
“You fit bring your pikin come make I see am?”
“Oya na, make I go bring am” He hands me the pack of cotton bud and off he goes.
He is back with Ebuka. Using my phone’s flashlight I examine the affected ear. It appears the boy has an impacted ear wax
“E be like say ear wax don block him ear”
“Na so I see am. The thing surprise me because every week we dey clean him ear I no know how this wan take happen”
“To clean am with original cotton bud no be the solution sir. You go need to go see doctor make them check am well and see wetin they fit do.”
“I suspect say the reason why him get ear problem be say you dey clean inside the ear well well”
Are you also surprised? Let me explain.
Alright I agree. Cotton buds are found in many homes. Everybody is using it. Yes, they are often used to remove earwax. However, it is a practice that is capable of causing ear problems, including deafness.
You see, earwax is not dirt. It has many important functions. It helps protect the eardrum and ear canal by providing a waterproof lining for the ear canal, helping to keep it dry and preventing germs from causing infection. It also traps dirt, dust, and other particles, keeping them from injuring or irritating the eardrum.
After the wax is produced, it slowly makes its way through the outer ear canal to the opening of the ear. Then it either falls out or comes out during bathing. In most people, the outer ear canal makes earwax all the time, so the canal always has enough wax in it.
In most cases, nothing needs to be done to remove earwax from kids’ ears; regular bathing is enough to keep it at healthy levels.
If your child complains of ear discomfort and you see earwax in the ear, it’s OK to wipe the outside of the ear with a washcloth. Many parents make the mistake of seeing a bit of wax in the ear and cleaning it with a cotton bud but that’s likely just going to push the wax further inward—and risk injury. At most, use a cloth to wipe away bits of wax that have worked their way out.
If your child has any ear pain, discomfort, hearing problems, or an uncomfortable blocked feeling in the ears, talk with your doctor. (In infants and toddlers, tugging at the ears can be sign of an ear issue.) Many over-the-counter treatments are sold for earwax removal, but don’t use them without talking to your healthcare professional.
Papa Ebuka took my advice and took his son to the hospital. He was sent home with instructions on how to remove impacted earwax with olive oil. (The usual method is to tilt the affected ear upwards, then drop a small amount of oil into the ear using a dropper a few times a day).
Another method used by doctors to clear earwax is by syringing water into the ear (known as irrigation) but, for obvious reasons, this method is not popular with kids. If wax is still built up after trying these methods, you may be referred to a specialist, who can remove it using specialized tools under a microscope.
Luckily for Ebuka, olive oil did the trick. According to the dad, hard chunks of wax started coming out of his ear on the third day of using olive oil drops