Otitis externa, also known as outer ear infection or swimmers' ear is a common infection affecting the ear canal and outer parts of the ear. It usually starts with itching and irritation and can go on to be painful with discharge and hearing loss. Causes of ear infections include;
- Pre-existing ear problems such as eczema and psoriasis. These conditions result in minute breaks in the skin. This permits the entry of naughty bacteria which can cause ear infections. Consult your doctor about treatment for your skin condition in order to prevent ear infections recurring. You may need steroid cream or drops.
- Repeated immersion in water. This softens the delicate skin lining the ear canal (epithelium) and lets bacteria penetrate. Molded ear plugs such as ours from http://zenplugs.com/molded-earplugs are ideal for protecting the ears.
- Exposure to irritants such as perfumes, soaps, shampoos and chlorinated water in pools. Don't leave shampoo and conditioner on for longer than you need to. If it runs into your ears wear some earplugs when you wash your hair.
- Exposure to bacteria in sea water, on dirty fingers and over-used foam ear plugs
- Foreign bodies in the ear, e.g. children putting beads in their ear canals
- Allergy to ear drops (suggested when infection gets worse despite treatment)
This is a list of the commonest and most relevant causes, not all of them are included.
It is possible to catch an ear infection from your stethoscope; it is called stethoscope associated otitis externa. The more often you use it and the longer you use it for, the more likely you are to catch something.
If you use your stethoscope for examining people or animals it is important to keep it clean because it can pick up bacteria from them and transfer it to your ears. If you share your stethoscope with others it can also transfer germs from their ears to yours; you can catch their ear infections in this way.
The other problem with stethoscopes is that the ear pieces can be really uncomfortable and can damage the delicate and sensitive skin that lines your ears. Tiny holes in skin can let bacteria in.
So what should I do?
ZenPlugs Molded Stethoscope Earpiece Kit gives you a way of making your own molded stethoscope earpieces at home in a few minutes. They are conveniently fitted to the ears so are delightfully comfortable and surprisingly effective at killing bacteria due to the incorporated antibacterial compound. They are much more gentle on the ears and won't cause any damage to the skin like other types of earpiece.
Ear infections are commonplace and are definitely worth avoiding. Taking simple precautions with aural hygiene and using antibacterial earpieces may well be enough to protect you from the problem. Signs of an outer ear infection include pain, inflammation, swelling and discharge.
Protect yourself against ear infections from your stethoscope with ZenPlugs Molded Stethoscope Earpieces Kit.
Next week we will be talking about How To Prevent Otitis Externa.
Dr Toby Bateson for zenplugs.com.