Once this is posted, my husband’s birthday will have just passed. So we’ll talk about one of his problems. When we met, we were staying in Tokyo for a study abroad program and decided to fly to Kyoto to check that place out. He made the mistake of flying while sick and congested which made flying intensely painful. He found out later, after one awful 15+ hour flight home, that he burst his eardrum.
The eardrum is the membrane that converts sound into vibrations that your brain can understand as sound. It can be injured quite easily, which is why everyone advises against using cotton swabs to clean your ears. Loud noises and head trauma can also damage the eardrum. The danger that my husband was subject to was a change in air pressure (combined with his already congested sinuses). His sickness combined with the air pressure change put too much pressure on his eardrum and ruptured it.
Symptoms of a ruptured eardrum include the expected hearing loss/ringing noise in the ear, bleeding or fluid leaking from the ear, or an earache. However, it’s possible that you may feel relief from an earache if your eardrum is damaged.
Your doctor will have to diagnose your ear problem (since you kind of can’t look in your own ear) and he’ll have to use a special instrument to look in. Most injuries will heal within a few weeks, but could take months or (in my husband’s case) years. Sometimes surgery is required if the injury cannot heal on its own and infections may slow or prevent healing.
So don’t stick cotton swabs in your ears! If you do get something stuck in your ear, see your doctor to have them remove the object to minimize the risk of more damage. Avoid infections in general, but the cold and flu can affect the middle ear, as well as exposure to tobacco smoke and allergens. Immunizations may also help prevent these kinds of infections.
If you do end up with a perforated eardrum, antibiotics may be prescribed to avoid these infections or the doctor may patch up the hole. Keep water out of your ear (sorry swimmers) and try not to blow your nose which may mess with the pressure in your ears. Cotton balls with Vaseline can help protect your ear during a shower and warm compresses may relieve some discomfort. Ask your doctor before using any pain killers.
Most ear injuries will heal on their own with no issues and you’ll be able to continue with your daily life as normal. I think society as a whole needs to learn to stop putting cotton swabs in their ears though.
Info: Harvard Health Publishing: https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/perforated-eardrum-a-to-z