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Q&A about children's ear health with audiologist Karen Finch - ANSWERS BACK

(24 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 08-Nov-12 09:25:57

Do you have any questions about your children's hearing or ear health? Audiologist Karen Finch will answer your questions and provide advice on a broad range of ear health queries, ranging from wax build-up to symptoms of tinnitus.

Karen is managing director of a hearing care centre. She is past president and a current fellow of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists (BHSAA), a member of the British Society of Audiology (BSA) and the Association of Independent Hearing Healthcare Professionals (AIHPP).

So please post your questions to her here. We'll send up to 20 questions to Karen on 12 November and publish her answers on 22 Nov.

This Q&A is sponsored by Cerumol Olive Oil ear drops.

aristocat Thu 08-Nov-12 12:48:25

A while ago ago my DS had to go to hospital to have wax build-up removed - we were told he might have perforated his ear-drum but that was not the case. The earwax was horrible and there was so much of it.

Is it correct that as he grows his Eustachian tube will straighten out and we may not have this problem again? He is 10 years old now.

Also I don't think that enough information is made available to parents to not put cotton buds into children's ears. I certainly do not do this anymore.

WowOoo Thu 08-Nov-12 12:51:44

I'd like to know if I should clean my son's ears with cotton buds.

I always thought I shouldn't but was told that the outside part is OK, just not inside.

If i can't do this, how do i get rid of the horrible wax I can sometimes see?


Waspie Thu 08-Nov-12 13:08:00


My son is almost 5 years old and has just started in reception.

We had always been concerned about his hearing which seemed to fluctuate between pretty good and really quite poor. His speech was not delayed but he finds some sounds extremely difficult to replicate, particularly J, G, CH, SH and TH. We finally had his hearing tested in the summer and saw a consultant.

The consultant confirmed that his hearing was significantly affected and diagnosed "glue ear". He suggested grommits and removal of adenoids. He also said that the problem was likely to rectify itself by the age of 6 or 7 years as the Eustachian tubes grow.

I'm uncomfortable with the idea of putting my son through a procedure for a problem that will resolve itself in time. So my question is whether there is any other way to help my son maintain realtively good hearing, perhaps by helping keep his Eustachian tubes as clear as possible, without the need for surgery?

Many thanks.

Onetwothreeoops Thu 08-Nov-12 13:20:36

My DS aged 7 has VERY waxy ears, he also wears hearing aids. The wax works its way into the hearing aid tubes and usually stops them working before the end of the school day.

Our nearest audiologist is nearly an hour away so every time I take him to have the wax removed he misses about 3 hours of school which is not ideal. The audiologist will not suggest any way of removing ear wax at home. Obviously putting oil into the ears is no good because the wax has nowhere to go, I've tried ear drops with hydrogen peroxide but this made the skin inside his ears sore.

My question is are there any other options for removing wax at home? I am willing to be trained to use an ear shower machine but I'm not sure if that is an option. Any suggestions welcome.

Thank you

ScarahScreams Thu 08-Nov-12 13:26:32

Are waxy ears linked to diet?

PurplyWurply Thu 08-Nov-12 17:17:45

My 3yo DC's ear wax is always very dark brown, is this normal? If not what should we do? Will it lighten with age?

LucyJ33 Thu 08-Nov-12 19:30:24

My daughter has had significant hard wax build up in her ears. It was noticed by the GP when she was poorly with something else. We treated them with oil 4 times a day and when softened the wax was 'hoovered' out.

My question is how can I tell if the wax is building up again? Is there a gadget I can use to check her ears? I try to oil her ears every week at bed time but I'm concerned the wax builds up significantly again.

SHRIIIEEEKPoolingBearBlood Thu 08-Nov-12 19:33:46

Is there any link between breastfeeding and ear infections (apart from the genrral reduced risk of infection). Ds suffered badly from infections from the age of about 18m and 3 and I was told not to let him eat or drink lying down. I didn't ,but I did breastfeed him in the usual position

sometimessunshine Thu 08-Nov-12 19:38:19

My son is being assessed for APD next month, can you tell me what to expect and what to expect if he is diagnosed. Thank you.

turkeyboots Thu 08-Nov-12 19:44:05

Is there a risk of permanent hearing loss from glue ear? DS has had awful glue hear and "moderate" hearing loss before grommets were put in. They've made a huge difference so far, but still a bit concerned as we approach school starting age.

And how accurate are baby and toddler hearing tests? They seem more of an art than science!

HufftheHedgehog Thu 08-Nov-12 19:44:46


My son is 5 and each winter gets ear infections (usually after a cold), which quite often result in him being given antibiotics. Is this something that he is likely to grow out of?

He also saw a consultant last year as I was concerned about his hearing, the consultant diagnosed 'glue ear' and said that it was something that gets worse in the winter, and improves again over the summer. Is there anything I can do during the winter months to stop the 'glue ear' getting worse for my son ?


SkiBumMum Thu 08-Nov-12 19:50:23

My daughter had grommets 6 weeks ago. The consultant says it's fine to get her ears wet again but everything I read suggests the opposite. Who is correct?

JugglingWithPossibilities Thu 08-Nov-12 20:33:32

When my daughter was little she used to occasionally get horrible ear ache when she had a cold. At night she found it hard to get to sleep.

I tried to give her some calpol but she wasn't always amenable to having it.

Thinking of others in the same situation what else could I have done to help my daughter's ear-ache ?

(Thankfully she's grown out of it now)

oricella Thu 08-Nov-12 21:05:47

After years of infections every other month or so, my 4 year old now seems to have permanent perforations in both eardrums. Nevertheless, until now her hearing seems to be fine, when last tested was within the normal range, and she has been infection free for around 5 months now. In your experience, how common are permanent perforations, is there a chance they will heal over time, or will grafts be the only option for repair further down the line? Many thanks

SuperSaint Thu 08-Nov-12 21:41:31

I came to post the same question as Oricella! My 6yr old DS has the same problem with a seemingly permanent perforated eardrum following numerous infections in the past. His hearing has been tested and is fine.

He wears ear plugs and an ear band for swimming and we keep it as dry as possible but this can be difficult with hair washing etc. His last infection was about 6 months ago and the consultant believes the hole is unlikely to heal due to scarring and thinks a graft will be necessary. I have read that there is no point doing a graft before about age 10 as the success rate is low. Is this your opinion too?

ProphetOfDoom Thu 08-Nov-12 21:56:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ripsishere Fri 09-Nov-12 03:53:38

My 11.6 DD had grommets around 3 years ago. Both are out now, one had settled into a ball of wax at the bottom of her ear and she had it syringed out.
My DH is a scuba diver and would like to take her for a trial/training session around March. All the literature (and experience he's had) suggests 10 is an appropriate age for them.
She is very slight. Can you advise me whether this sounds OK? I could take her to the local hospital but don't know whether there is a test for my query.

nightscentedgarden Fri 09-Nov-12 09:42:20

My 11 year old son suffers badly during descent when flying. We have seen a doctor who says there is no problem but about 6 years ago another doctor said he had a perforated eardrum. Do these repair themselves? What else could be causing the problem? We have of course tried all the suggested remedies for the pain on the plane.

DeWe Fri 09-Nov-12 09:46:11

My ds had grommets at 20 months after continuous infections since 3 months.
And then grommets again at 3.6 yo after he'd had 8 perforated ear drums in 3 months. (grommets having been out for 4-6 months at that point)

The grommets are now out again (age 5.4yo) and he gets occasional mild ear pain, but no infections.

Two questions:
1. If he's not getting infections, but still has glue ear, would you recommend more grommets (his behaviour is poor when he can't hear) or would hearing aids be a better option. Because I'm wondering how damaged his ear drum is already.

2. Since the grommets came out last March, he's had 4 bouts of tonsilitis (having never had it before) where he appears very ill-he has 24-36 hours where he just sleeps, can't even stand up, I have to carry him to the toilet, and syringe fluids into him. Is this related to the ear infections, or a separate issue? Because it seems a little of a coincidence they seem to have started as the ear infections stopped.

Kveta Fri 09-Nov-12 13:09:09

I have 2 questions.

1. DS (3) is now under consultant care for his recurrent ear infections (like Stealth's DS, he was breastfed until 3) but getting the referral from the GP was like drawing teeth, they really didn't want him referred, but were happy for him to be in pain for 6 months +, waking every 45 minutes, and wouldn't prescribe anything at most appointments. Whereas ENT cons took one look and got him on low dose trimethoprim for 6 weeks which seems to have done the trick. Why are GPs so reluctant to treat ear infections?

2. DD (nearly 5 months) has very waxy ears, and is constantly clawing at them, so has a wound in each ear, which she scratches open every time they look like healing (no matter how short her nails are kept). GP told me there is no sign of infection, but she stops scratching if given calpol. Is there any other way to alleviate the itching?

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 12-Nov-12 16:47:07

The Q&A is now closed and we've sent the questions over to Karen. We'll be linking to her answers from this thread on 22 Nov.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 27-Nov-12 13:25:33

The answers are now back and you can read the full Q&A here

Q&A with audiologist Karen Finch

JugglingWithPossibilities Fri 30-Nov-12 11:08:02

Thanks for your lovely answer to my ear-ache question. It sounds silly, but it's kinda reassuring to know that there wasn't much more I could have done for DD when she was little and suffered with ear-aches when she had a bad cold (apart from offering Calpol or similar which I did) Also of course watch and wait.
Hopefully I may feel more confident with any other children I look after in the future who suffer with this. smile

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