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Your child’s ear health plays an important part in your child’s growth and development. As a mom of three deaf and hard of hearing kids, I often had to attend to their ears on a daily basis–mostly to nudge a hearing aid into each ear. Over the years, I’ve gathered some tips that I share here:
The Stuff in the Ears
Ear wax is the stuff in your ears otherwise known as cerumen. Your first instinct is often to dig it out of the ears. As a parent, you’ve probably heard the saying, “Don’t put anything in your child’s ear that’s smaller than an elbow.” In other words, ears are mostly hands off when it comes to hygiene and care. I cringe when I see someone using cotton swabs in the ears. Cotton swabs actually push down ear wax and can impact the wax against the eardrum. Ear wax in moderation actually serves a great purpose in the ears. It is a barrier against dirt and dust. Ear wax protects the ear drum and blocks out certain types of bacteria and fungus.
Excess moisture in the ear can lead to a condition called “Swimmer’s Ear.” The key is prevention as well as treatment–both involve vinegar (important note, do NOT use this if your child’s eardrum is perforated or damaged in any way). After swimming, baths, or showers, place a few drops of distilled white vinegar in the ear canal and then drain out by leaning the ear over a soft towel. Dry the outside of the ear with a towel, taking care not to enter the ear canal. You can also use a solution of 50% distilled white vinegar and 50% rubbing alcohol, but rubbing alcohol is harsh on the ears and it also strips away the protective cerumen. Garlic oil is another alternative treatment for Swimmer’s Ear.
Note: Swimmer’s Ear affects the outer ear. Middle ear infections occur on the inside of the ear drum. Whenever in doubt, see a physician or Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist.
For chronic cases of Swimmer’s Ear, one preventive solution is to use custom ear molds or ear putty. Keep in mind, if you choose this route, it is a good idea to have your child’s ears examined by a Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor at least once a year to ensure that no impacted cerumen remains inside from using the devices.
Protect Your Child’s Hearing
Take care to protect your child from sudden or prolonged loud sounds. Set the volume on low for toys or limit your child’s playtime with loud sounds. Repeated exposure to music or environmental sounds can cause permanent hearing damage. Once the sensitive hairs in the inner ear are damaged, the ability to hear is affected. Consider ear muffs in loud situations or when exposed to sudden sounds.
Teens are especially prone to hearing loss from exposure to loud music–either via headphones/ear buds through personal listening devices or regular attendance at loud concerts. If your child experiences a ringing sound after loud noise exposure or has difficulty hearing in noisy situations, see an audiologist to rule out permanent hearing loss.
If your child is young and you notice a developmental delay with speech and language, hearing loss may be the cause. Seek out a pediatric audiologist for a hearing test.