Doctors restore hearing after cotton swab disaster
You may have been told by your mother to "never put anything smaller into your ear than your elbow," and now the story of a U.S. woman who lost her hearing shows why your mom was right.
The 59-year-old woman had been using a cotton swab to clean her left ear when she stopped to swat at a fly. The sudden movement caused the swab to be pushed deep into her inner ear.
Shortly after, the woman began feeling dizzy and lost the hearing in her left ear.
She went to went to the emergency department at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, where doctors found that she had perforated her ear drum, creating an abnormal opening between the air-filled middle ear and the fluid-filled inner ear.
A hearing test also revealed the woman was now deaf in her left ear. Dr. Ilaaf Darrat, an otolaryngologist at Henry Ford who wrote up case report, says her team was not hopeful.
"Once your hearing is gone, it's usually gone," she said in a news release ahead of presenting the case at the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Foundation annual meeting.
The woman was told to go home and get some bed rest. But when this failed to relieve her dizziness after several days, Dr. Darrat and colleague Dr. Michael D. Seidman decided to perform surgery.
They removed some cartilage from her outer ear and used it to repair the crack in her inner ear and the hole in the eardrum.
Nearly six weeks later, the patient's vertigo was gone. But what surprised the doctors the most was that the patient had recovered most of her hearing.
"It's nearly miraculous that her hearing returned from a non-functioning ear," notes Dr. Seidman.
"We were able to perform surgery early and stop the leak of inner ear fluid. We believe that helped to restore the patient's hearing."
Dr. Seidman says the case study is yet another example of why cleaning out your ears with cotton swabs is never a good idea.
"Using cotton swabs in your ears can cause serious hearing issues," he says.
"Several times a year, I see patients who have put a hole in their eardrum or damaged the inner ear because they've pushed a cotton swab too far into the ear canal. This type of an injury can deafen a patient, cause vertigo, shatter the eardrum, or even paralyze the face."
Even if there is no injury, cotton swabs can lead to ear infections and blocked hearing, as the swabs push the wax further into the ear.
Doctors usually recommend that people complaining of "fullness" in the ear see their family doctor who can irrigate the ear to remove wax build-up.
With a report from The Canadian Press