by Robert Martin, PhD
Many hearing aid users have are troubled by excess moisture in their external ear canals. This can occur for a wide variety of reasons: living in a hot climate, working in a physical job, having a tiny vent in the hearing aid, or the use of earmold medications.
Moist ears tend to itch, stink, and generally act disagreeably. The greatest danger, however, is the natural proclivity of a wet ear to become infected. Bacteria and fungus love hot, damp environments, and the external canal, if allowed to stay wet, is a perfect breeding ground for all types of nasty “bugs.”
When I see an ear that is simply “ugly,” I often have the patient use the alcohol vinegar earwash, described below, twice a day for four days, and then come back and see me. At this point I can differentiate a merely “disagreeable” ear from a truly “sick” ear that needs to be referred to a medical doctor for treatment.
If the ear collects too much moisture and simply needs drying out, I may give the patient this earwash and have him or her use the “drops” every other day (or three times a week) for a couple of months.
Please note: The earwash I am discussing is not medicine and it is not intended for a sick ear. If you suspect a patient has an infected ear, refer the patient to an MD for treatment. Also, do not recommend or use this earwash with a patient who has a perforation in the eardrum. Patients with a history of ear surgery should ask their ear doctor about using this earwash.
- 1 teaspoon of white vinegar.
- 1 teaspoon of rubbing alcohol.
- Mix the ingredients together in a cup.
- Use an eyedropper to put most of the mixture in the ear.
- Tilt the head to be sure the earwash runs all the way down inside the ear. Then tilt the head the other way and let the liquid drain out.
Alcohol is a drying agent and evaporates at a very low temperature. Because vinegar is highly acidic, it increases the acidity of the tissue in the ear canal making it difficult for bacteria and fungus to grow there. Using this earwash helps to sterilize the ear canal.
Overuse of this wash can lead to excessive drying of the ear and cause the skin to crack and bleed. So, it is important to use this wash with caution.
If you are a patient, make sure you coordinate the use of this earwash with one of your doctors. Have them inspect your ear canal periodically to insure you are not doing more harm than good.
Keeping Ear Canals Dry and Healthy
Many hearing aid users face issues with excess moisture in their ear canals, leading to itching, odor, and a higher risk of infections. To address this, the homemade earwash using a mixture of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol can help dry out the ears and prevent the growth of bacteria and fungus. However, it is important to use the earwash with caution and seek medical advice if there are signs of infection or if there is a history of ear surgery.
Robert Martin, PhD, dedicated more than 20 years to his influential “Nuts & Bolts” column in a leading industry trade journal prior to writing for Hearing Health & Technology Matters. His expertise was so valued that a collection of the “Best of Nuts & Bolts” was published in paperback by Williams & Wilkins, attaining notable success.
*this article originally appeared in August 2013, and has been lighted edited for clarity