News and Tidbits
What can I do to keep earwax from building up?
If you've not had ear surgery and your eardrum doesn't have a tube or hole in it, there are some steps you can take to avoid earwax buildup:
- Soften the earwax - Use an eyedropper to apply a few drops of baby oil, mineral oil, glycerin or hydrogen peroxide in the affected ear canal twice a day for no more than four to five days. If earwax buildup is a recurring problem, you might try a nonprescription wax removal product, such as carbamide peroxide (Debrox, Murine Ear Wax Removal Drops, others). But remember, if you've had a perforated eardrum or ear surgery - including ear tubes - don't uses this type of product or flush your ears with water.
- Use warm water - After a day or two when the wax is softened, use a rubber-bulb syringe to gently squirt body-temperature water into your ear canal. Tilt your head and straighten your ear canal by pulling your outer ear up and back. When finished irrigating, tip your head to the side to let the water drain out.
- Dry your outer ear - When finished, gently dry your outer ear with a towel or hand-held dryer.
You may need to repeat these steps several times. If the buildup doesn't improvea techniqueis not a safe earwax removal method and shouldn'tipped swabs likewise isn't recommended, as it can harm the ear or pack the wax in deeper.
Mayo Clinic Health Letter, March 2014
Early Study Points to Hearing Loss Turnaround
Researchers have identified a potential use for a drug that was developed for treatment of Alzheimer's disease, but found ineffective for Alzheimer's. The drug is a gamma secretase inhibitor. A recent study indicates this chemical may open the door to partial restoration of hearing loss in mammals.
Normally, the brain "hears" sounds thanks to sensory hair cells in the inner ear that convert sound into electrical signals. When hair cells are damaged - due to noise, infections, normal aging or even certain drugs - serious hearing loss may occur. Although sensory hair cells don't regenerate in mammals, they do in birds and fish. Scientists have been on a quest to find a substance that might prompt sensory hair cell growth in mammals. In the Jan. 9, 2013, issue of Neuron, researchers reported using the drug to prompt inner ear hair cell growth in deaf mice, which resulted in partial hearing recovery.
While these findings are of value, Mayo Clinic researchers say the idea of restoring hearing loss through hair cell regeneration is still in the very early stages of research. Major challenges remain, including concerns related to toxic side effects observed during the laboratory studies. It's too soon to predict when, if ever, human clinical trials may be started to test the safety and effectiveness of a drug that might restore hearing loss. www.HealthLetter.MayoClinic.com August 2013