Ear Irrigation

Ear irrigation is one of the most common procedures performed in hospitals. Ear irrigation is a simple procedure which can be done by anyone with basic medical training. Ear irrigation can improve hearing and prevent infections in the ears. The benefits of ear irrigating are many; however, there are some disadvantages too. If not properly done, it may cause damage to your hearing or even lead to permanent deafness if not used correctly.

What Is Ear Icing?

The term “ear icing” refers to the practice of putting ice into the ear canal to reduce swelling. Ice is placed in the ear canal to decrease pressure within the ear. When applied carefully, it can be effective in reducing pain and inflammation caused by fluid buildup inside your ears. However, excessive use of ice can cause damage to your hearing and even lead to permanent deafness if not used correctly.

How Does Ear Icing Work?

When you apply ice directly to the outside of your eardrum, it causes a localized cooling effect. This reduces swelling and helps keep your inner ear from overheating. While this works well for short periods of time, overuse can result in damage to the delicate tissue surrounding the eardrum. Overheated tissues can rupture causing hearing loss.

Why Should You Care About Ear Icing?

When flying, pressure changes can cause the air inside your ears to expand and contract. This leads to a buildup of inner-ear fluid and possible bacterial or viral infection. Pain reduces your ability to hear normally and may even lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss. Depending on the cause of the fluid buildup, placing ice in the ear canal may help reduce pain and swelling and allow you to hear normally again.

Although the process of ear icing can prevent or reduce pain from ear pressure, it may do more harm than good for your hearing. If you try to reduce the swelling of your ear drums with ice, you may experience a loss of hearing.

This is because over-the-counter treatments like ear candles and over-the-counter drops are not recommended by medical professionals.

What Are the Symptoms Of Ear Icing?

The symptoms of ear icing may include:

Pain – An aching or throbbing sensation in the ear can be caused by a buildup of fluid behind the eardrum.

Tense Ears – Swelling or inflammation can cause your ears to feel tight or full.

Feeling of Pressure – This is also caused by the buildup of fluid inside the middle ear space.

Reduced Hearing – Hearing loss may be a side effect of using ear icing methods.

Who Needs Ear Icing?

People with ear pain caused by air travel can benefit from the temporary relief of ear icing. This includes people who have recently taken a plane, helicopter or other flight vehicle. The process involves putting an ice pack on your ear for five minutes at a time, every 30 minutes while you are experiencing pain.

Who Should Not Try Ear Icing?

Ear icing can be dangerous for people with certain medical conditions such as perforated ear drums or existing hearing loss.

Sources & references used in this article:

Jet ear irrigation system by M Grossan – US Patent 4,206,756, 1980 – Google Patents

Drainage device for ear irrigation by L Hathaway – US Patent 4,036,235, 1977 – Google Patents

Ear irrigation device by GJ Roger – US Patent 6,210,358, 2001 – Google Patents

Ear irrigation device and method by S Hurwitz – US Patent 5,662,605, 1997 – Google Patents

Can ear irrigation cause rupture of the normal tympanic membrane?: an experimental study in man by VZ SØRensen, P Bonding – The Journal of Laryngology & Otology, 1995 – cambridge.org

Ventilation tube surgery and middle ear irrigation by TJ Balkany, I Kaufman Arenberg… – The …, 1986 – Wiley Online Library

Safe and effective ear irrigation by S Kraszewski – Nursing Standard (through 2013), 2008 – search.proquest.com

Ear wax by T Wright – Bmj, 2015 – bmj.com