On occasion, doodlemonger.com publishes stories by guest authors (Note: “on occasion” = twice). This is a story by Tina, who also writes the blog Smashed Picket Fences. Enjoy.
I’ve had on and off problems with my ears my whole life. In the beginning it was mostly a “gross” dirty ear problem, which led to many, many, many (many) ear infections. I had a wax factory; enough to fuel the forever burning candle they use in the Olympics. I have had my ears cleaned several times by doctors and then by the University Health Center as a college student. Then, when I thought my problem could not get worse they started to itch around my freshmen year.
When it got painful enough I went to the health center and *surprise* I would have an outer ear infection. They would prescribe ear drops and life would be wonderful for a few months. Finally I started cleaning my ears with wax removal kit and swishing out with water like all the doctors recommended. NO MORE Q – TIPS. They are apparently the devil. But when the REAL itching started a q-tip now and then was the only relief. I vowed one day when I had health insurance I would go to a “specialist”, an Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor who would cure me. This became a life goal.
On and off my ears would itch and constantly flake. I now had no wax which made me pine for my earlier wax-filled years. It is gross, but when you get used to it you don’t think about your finger jammed in your ear 24/7. Tyler said that at times he would wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of my furious, unconscious ear itching. Ah, romance.
The day came to go to the specialist at the beginning of the year when my ears were approaching a desert-like, constant-itch state. It became a part of my personality. I was tempted to put it on my resume. Tina: compassionate, motivated, hard-worker, frequent ear-itcher. The doctor looked once and proclaimed his diagnosis: “Ah yes! Itchy dry ears, I am very familiar with that, we can clear that right up!” He smiled (oh he was a very nice guy, I liked him). “Put a few drops of baby oil in them and they will be like new in a few months, I guarantee it!”
What was this? The problem that had plagued me for years had a simple solution and it was sitting in my local grocery store all this time and I didn’t need a prescription for it? Most people I had talked to had said “I had that problem once and the doctor gave me * *fill in common household item here* * and it went away.” I longed for just such a solution, but didn’t think it was possible.
“Baby Oil?” I repeated. I had never put anything not designed to go in my ears in my ears. I needed a while to process this. I wrote it down on a piece of paper to make sure not to forget. He then said, “Or, if you don’t have baby oil, you can use olive oil, garlic oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil…” I scribbled these recommendations like a gift from God, but it was starting to sound like a great recipe for salad dressing and not the cure-all I had hoped for. I left with a new cautious hope, because this I had not tried.
I religiously put the baby oil in my ears for a few weeks and nothing dramatic happened. It got greasy, it dried, and my ears continued to itch. It was anti-climatic really. Non-improvement aside, I dutifully kept putting baby oil in my ears, because this was the cure-all I had been promised.
I called the doctor’s office and the secretary assured me of the procedure and that it would take more time. She also was very kind and pointed out that in my chart it had been recommended not to get my ears wet, it would aggravate the problem, also to put in this alcohol stuff you could by in the store for swimmer’s ear to dry my ears out if water got in on accident.
Off to the store I went.
I eventually resigned to my fate. I may always have itchy ears. I may always have dry flaky ears. I may (at this point) wake my husband up every night (yes every night at this point) itching my ears in my sleep. I had gotten pretty good about not itching as much during the day, convinced that this was aggravating my problem. I, however, could not stop my unconscious self from doing so.
At the beginning of August my ears were so dry and itchy they were cracking and bleeding. They had done this before, but now that I knew it was possible for baby oil to go in there I was more willing to try other things, too. I started putting vitamin E in my ears which cleared up the dry cracking and bleeding. Oh and the swimmers ear (pure alcohol) drops feel *really* good when applied to already dry and chapped ears. Tyler even read the bottle before applying the drops and said “I know you can’t see your ears, but they are really dry. This is probably going to burn. Badly.” *Sigh* I know I am a martyr for all dry itchy ears everywhere. It not only burned, it felt like someone reached down to my throat through my ears and lit a match after prepping the area with a little gasoline.
At my last OB-GYN appointment while checking up on my pregnancy the doctor asked about other health concerns. I brought up my ears, but I knew that he could do nothing. I had seen many doctors and many doctors pretty much told me there is “no cure”, “just don’t itch”, and “put baby oil in them.” At this point I was putting cotton balls in my ears for showers so as not to get water down them, had ditched the baby oil (that obviously didn’t work, it did the opposite), and other foreign substances in hopes that not touching them would clear them up. They were still pretty dry and terribly itchy.
The OB looked in my ears and said “wow those are really dry, there is definitely some skin condition thing going on in there.” He moved to my other ear. “Oh, yeah, um” he cleared his throat and looked again with a disgusted look on his face. “That one has something, in it.” He then backed away and inspected his ear-looky-flighlight thingy. Tyler and I could literally see the horror and contemplation in his eyes to burn the thing and then wash his hands 50 times in special doctor soap. This reaction did not bode well from a man who looks in women’s who-hah’s all day.
I made an appointment with my primary care doctor to get this horrible thing he was scared of out of my ears right away. She looked inside and tisked (I have been seeing her since December, but never really mentioned my ears, because I was resigned to my fate). She empathized with me and said “oh, this must have been horrible for you… oh this is very severe, but common. There is nothing in that one ear by the way.”
She then got a steroid cream and swabbed my ears with it. My ears went from their constant itchy state to (wow) nothing. For the first time in a long time, I felt no itching. Then she said, “I am giving this steroid cream to you. You will need to apply it twice a day for a week then come back so I can see that this has gone away. Then I need to make a prescription for you for a cream you can use after that to maintain your new non-itchy status.” I swallowed the sob in my throat… must have been pregnancy hormones at work there. “Why did you wait so long to have me look at this? This is a very severe case,” she said. I told her my story. She replied with “Oh, for Pete’s sake. Some doctors really need to retire.” And for the moment, it seems I’ve found it: the miracle cure.
Let me tell you that the feeling of relief I am experiencing right now is very dramatic. The true test will be if in a week I am still waking up Tyler in the night itching my ears.
I guess of all the opinions I got from people about my dry itchy ears, my dad had it right. He looked in my ears after I was explaining to my mom how they got so dry, itchy, and bleeding and said “I know what can fix that.” I looked at him with glee and daughterly expectation because he was so confident.
“Yeah, a better doctor will clear that up.”
By popular demand I will finally come out of my hermit hole and give an update to a story my husband posted on his website almost three years ago…
Oh my gosh the scandal! The one and only doodlemonger is my husband 🙂
I have never received more attention for my ears in my whole life. I got so much email on the subject and I am sure there were more people who wondered what ever happened and didn’t email. I just kept emailing individuals as they inquired about it, but always thought the post would die down in its popularity and eventually fade into the cyber abyss. Apparently I was wrong. According to my husband this post remains one of the most read on doodlemonger.com.
Well, I no longer have the problem to the degree I did when I wrote the original post. I do have the occasional flare up, but the cream I use takes care of that for me quickly and itchlessly. Yes, I just created a new word: Itchlessly. And the name of the cream:
Drum roll please….
It was some sort of generic form of the medication *Elocon*. It is similar to Hydrocortisone anti-itch cream that you can get over the counter, but I needed the heavy duty version for my ears.
BUT the major reason why I didn’t write a huge post about the name of the cream etc is that I am not a medical professional. I have not received any medical training at all. I cannot diagnose other people’s itchy ears. Itchy ears can be caused by several different things and other skin disorders. This is why it is important to see a doctor before you try to put anything in your ears that I might suggest in a post. Also the cream I use was what was given to me by my doctor and another doctor may choose another alternative that is better for you. Or you may have another medical condition that would not make you a good candidate for this cream treatment.
*—End of Disclaimer Rant—*
However, the itchy ears I have are apparently very common. Aside from the emails I have gotten from my fellow itchy ear companions I have several friends and acquaintances with the same problem and we all have to use the same types of medications to keep our ears calm and happy.
So good luck! I have decided it is my new mission in life to not let anyone else suffer the way I have suffered. I hope everyone can find some relief and again I am sorry to keep reader in the dark about the name of the cream, just use the information for good and not evil in your pursuit of a less-itchy life.
For more stories like this one, check out Tina’s blog Smashed Picket Fences!