Anatomy of the Ear
The human ear is one of the more remarkable parts of the human body, not only because of the beauty and unlikelihood of its structure, but also because of its remarkable sensitivity to sounds. From an anatomical point of view, the ear is divided into three parts: the outer, the middle and the inner ear.
The outer ear consists of the pinna (auricle) that leads into the external auditory canal. It collects sound waves from a wide area and funnels the sound into the external ear passage. On the inside surface of the outer ear is the tympanic membrane (eardrum). It is stretched across the end of the auditory canal separating the outer ear from the middle.
The middle ear consists of small bones called ossicles. They are the malleus (hammer), the incus (anvil) and the stapes (stirrup). They transfer sound waves to the inner ear. Located covering an opening into the inner ear is called the oval window and below is another membrane called the round window that stretches across the opening and further adjoins the cochlea in the inner ear.
The inner ear comprises a coiled structure called the cochlea. The snail-like spiral coiled tube contains the receptors for sound and the vestibular apparatus that is associated with a sense of balance. The cochlear duct contains the organ of corti, which contains auditory receptor cells. The auditory nerve transmits sound vibrations to the brain.
Sound waves are perceived by the brain through the firing of nerve cells in the auditory portion of the central nervous system. The ear changes sound pressure waves from the outside world into a signal of nerve impulses sent to the brain.
The ear also plays an important role in sensing balance and position. The semi-circular canals are fluid filled tubes. Sensory cells which can be found in these canals sense the movement of fluid over them as the head moves. In this way the brain has an awareness of the position of the head.
- Loss of hearing
It is the main problem of the ear. Hearing loss may be partial or complete, temporary or permanent, depending on the cause. It can be sudden or gradual, occurring over a period of days, weeks or years. Infection, trauma, noise pollution changes in atmospheric pressure and earwax build up can cause a sudden loss of hearing. Hearing loss is divided into three categories:
- Conductive hearing loss
This occurs when the passage of sound waves is impeded in the external or middle ear.
- Sensor neural hearing loss
This is a consequence of damage to the structures or pathways of the inner ear. It may result from damage to the acoustic nerve (the eighth cranial nerve, also known as the auditory nerve), which carries information from the inner ear to the brain or from damage to tiny cells called hair cells in the inner ear. It can be caused by certain prescription medications including certain antibiotics, non sterodial anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), aspirin taken over a long period of time in high doses, quinine and infection of the inner ear. This type of hearing loss affects both the acuity and clarity of hearing.
- Central hearing loss
This is very rare and is usually due to severe brain damage as a result of a brain tumour or stroke.
There are small glands in the ear canal that produce wax. Earwax is a yellowish substance secreted in the ear canal. This wax entraps dust and foreign bodies, so as to leave a clear passage for the sound waves. It protects the skin of the ear canal, assists in cleaning and lubrication and also provides some protection from bacteria, fungi, insects and water etc. Ear wax can cause irritation when there is a blockage or impaction due to its accumulation deep inside the ear canal. The wax gets pushed up deeper into the ear while inserting cotton swabs into it, hence, causing blockage and discomfort.
People, who use ear plugs or hearing aids, are more prone to ear wax blockage.
- Noise Pollution
Noise pollution is one of the major reasons behind the gradual hearing loss in today’s time. It is believed that in earlier times, people were quite comfortable with their hearing capacity till the end of their lives but with advancement came noise pollution which harms our ear drums in long run , thus gradual decreasing our hearing capacity. The human ear can generally hear sounds with frequencies between 20 Hz and 20 kHz (the audio range). If there is a sudden loud burst, it can rupture eardrum hampering the hearing capacity of the individual.
- Ear infection
Ear infections are quite common and if left untreated they can impair the hearing capacity as well as other hear problems.
- Ear wax
- Acoustic neuroma (damage to the auditory nerve)
- Use of earplugs, head phones etc.
- Otosclerosis, a condition in which the small bones of the middle ear become immobile.
- Side effects of medications, such as aspirin, antibiotics and non – steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs taken for a long time.
- High blood pressure
- Stress and depression
- Trauma or Arthritis to the eardrum
- Use of certain antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, Aspirin etc.
- Use of bobby pins, match-sticks etc. to clean the earwax
- Stroke, Shock etc.
- Fever and pain deep in the ear and/or fluid draining from the ear
- Redness and swelling of the outer ear and the surrounding skin
- Headache-type pain and redness behind your ear or tenderness when you touch the bone behind the ear
- Thick pus-filled or bloody drainage from the ear canal that started after a sharp, sudden pain
- Swollen ear, itching and pain
- Jaw joint “crack” while chewing or opening of mouth
- Sound of fluid in your ear and feeling pressure or stuffiness that can’t be cleared with coughing, yawning or swallowing, along with cold or flu symptoms
- Tooth pain on the same side as the ear pain when you bite down
- Ear pain start during an airplane flight or right after you traveled on an airplane
- Feeling a pimple in the ear canal
- Problems in hearing.
Very often cause of hearing loss is some other underlying medical condition and in such cases cleanse cannot be of much benefit. However, earwax is very common to all of us and reason to various ear problems, including hearing loss, hence we have provided here few procedures for the same.
One of the best ways to remove the ear wax is putting olive oil as it softens the ear wax, thus making it easier to come out from the ear.
Olive oil (or mustard oil)
Put 2-3 drops of olive oil into the ear, affected by excessive blockage, during bedtime. Repeat it continuously for 3-4 days.
- Vinegar Solution
With a little vinegar and water, you can easily clean out your ears and remove excess wax.
White Vinegar, rubbing alcohol
Mix equal parts of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol in a tablespoon. Pour few drops into the ear clogged with ear wax. This solution greatly helps in getting rid of the ear wax, which can be irritating sometimes.
- Baby Oil
Baby oil is a soft and gentle medium of removing the earwax.
Baby oil (or mineral oil or Glycerine)
Put a few drops of baby oil or mineral oil with the help of a dropper to soften the earwax. Let the oil settle in for some time by placing a cotton ball at the ear opening. This prevents oil from oozing out before reaching the ear wax. Take out the cotton ball after some time in order to drain out the extra oil from the ear.
- Saline Solution
Salt water is the best earwax removal solution, that can be used at home. It can soften the wax accumulated inside the ear, making it easy to pull it out.
Sodium Chloride (salt) and water
Mix one teaspoon of salt in around ½ cup of warm water until it dissolves completely. Now, soak a cotton ball in the solution and squeeze few drops of it into the ear by slightly tilting your head upwards. Be in this position for a couple of minutes, so that the salty water properly gets inside the ear. Now, tilt your head in the opposite direction in order to drain out the solution from the ear.
You can also pour little warm water in the affected ear. Leave it for 3-5 minutes. Then, drain it out.
- Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide provides an effective method of softening ear wax blocking the ear canal.
Hydrogen peroxide and water
Mix equal parts of hydrogen peroxide and water. Make sure that the concentration of hydrogen peroxide is not above 3%; otherwise, it may be harmful. Pour a few drops of it into the ear by tilting your head sideways. Let it settle down in the ear for 3-5 minutes. Now, tilt your head towards the opposite side and let the extra solution drain out.
Cleanses for Ear Infections
Salt is probably the most readily available home remedy.
Heat up one cup of salt on a pan over low heat for a few minutes. You can also heat it in a microwave or double-boiler.
Place the hot salt on a cloth and seal the open end with rubber band (or tie a knot).
When it is bearably hot, lay down and put the cloth on the affected ear for 5 to 10 minutes.
Repeat this remedy daily as many times as needed. The heat generated from the salt will help draw out fluid from the ear and relieve swelling and pain.
Garlic has antimicrobial properties and natural pain relieving qualities, making it highly effective in the treatment of ear infections. There are a few ways to use garlic as a home treatment.
Make garlic oil by cooking two garlic cloves in two tablespoons of sesame oil or mustard oil until it turns blackish. Strain the solution. When it is bearably warm, use two to four drops of this oil in the infected ear as an ear drop.
Alternatively, you can also boil two or three fresh garlic cloves in water for five minutes, then crush them and add some salt. Put the mixture in a clean cloth and place it against the affected ear.
Consuming two to three cloves of raw garlic daily also helps speed up the healing process.
You can also use holy basil to treat minor earache and ear infections. It can relieve ear pain as well as reduce infection.
Crush four to five fresh holy basil leaves gently to extract the juice. Apply the basil juice on or around the infected ear. Avoid getting the juice in the ear canal.
You can also mix a few drops of holy basil oil with an equal amount of carrier oil like coconut, olive or mustard oil. Soak a cotton ball in the mixture and gently wipe just inside the ear, around the outer edge and behind the ear. Repeat the process twice daily.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
To get rid of the fungus that may be causing the ear infection, apple cider vinegar is a good option.
1. Mix one part apple cider vinegar with an equal amount of water or alcohol. Soak a cotton ball in the solution.
2. Put the cotton ball in your ear like a plug and leave it for about five minutes.
3. Remove the cotton ball and lay down on your opposite side to drain the liquid from the ear. Use a hair dryer to dry your ear as much as possible.
- Olive Oil (or Mustard Oil)
One of the main causes of an ear infection is wax in the ear catching some fungal or bacterial growth leading to a blockage in the Eustachian tubes. You can easily clear the obstruction with the help of olive oil.
1. Warm some olive oil slightly. Put a few drops of the warm oil into the infected ear.
2. The oil will cause the wax to soften. Remove the infected wax with cotton-tipped swabs. Be careful not to put the swab too far in the ear or you might damage the eardrum.
Onion has a number of medicinal uses including for the treatment of an ear infection.
Chop one small onion, put it in a bowl and microwave it for one to two minutes. Alternatively, you can heat it on a pan. Allow it to cool and then strain out the onion juice. Put two to three drops of the juice in the infected ear, leave it for some time and then turn your head to let it drain out of your ear.
You can also bake an onion for half an hour, cut it into halves and put one half in a thick cotton cloth. Place the cloth on the infected ear for five minutes. Wait for 10 minutes and then repeat the process.
- Tea Tree Oil
The mild antibacterial properties present in tea tree oil can give instant relief from earache. To treat an ear infection, follow the steps below.
- Mix three drops of tea tree oil, two tablespoons of olive oil, a teaspoon of colloidal silver and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Warm the mixture slightly.
- Lay on your side with your head on a towel. Using a dropper, fill your ear with the mixture and let it sit for five minutes. Then turn and lay on your other side so that the mixture drains out of your ear completely.
- Follow this remedy two to three times a day for two days.
- Mango Leaf Juice
Mango leaf extract is a quick and effective treatment for the ear ache and infections.
- Crush or grind two to three soft mango leaves to extract the juice. Slightly warm the juice.
- Using a dropper, put three to four drops of the juice into the infected ear. Within a few minutes, you will feel relief from the pain.
- Follow this remedy two to three times a day for two days to get total relief from ear infection.
- Breast Milk
Breast milk has natural antibodies that can help speed up the healing process of any kind of ear infection. It alleviates swelling and discomfort and gets rid of an ear infection within one or two days. This remedy works for both children and adults.
- Using a dropper put a few drops of breast milk into the affected ear.
- Repeat the process every few hours as needed.
- In case of a child, the breast feeding mother can directly drop few drops of milk to the infected ear, from her breast.