Ear infections, inflammation, glue ear and earwax build-up are all common ear problems, especially in children, although sometimes in adults too. Not all ear problems can be prevented, but there are a few ways you can look after your and your whānau’s ears.
Here are our top tips for healthy ears:
1. Reduce the risk during childhood
You can help to reduce your child’s risk of common ear problems by breastfeeding for the first 3 to 6 months, being smoke-free, keeping your home warm and dry and staying up to date with their vaccinations.
Make sure your child gets the B4 School Check and has their free hearing test.
2. Don’t put anything in your ears
Avoid damaging your ears by not putting anything inside your ear canal, including cotton wool buds.
3. Use a swimming cap or ear plugs
Outer ear infection or inflammation, also known as otitis externa or swimmer's ear, is often seen in swimmers or people whose ears are wet a lot. Help reduce your risk by covering your ears when you swim and drying your outer ear well when you get out of the water. If water gets into your ears, turn your head to the side and pull your earlobe in different directions to help the water drain out.
4. Manage wax build up
Some people are naturally prone to wax building up in their ears and may need frequent treatment to remove it when it becomes a problem.
Regular use of olive oil drops (2 to 3 drops in each ear once per week) may reduce the build-up of wax. This can be useful if you use hearing aids or ear plugs.
5. Give your ears a rest
Give your ears a break from ear devices such as ear plugs, hearing aids and in-ear headphones. Excessive use may contribute to outer ear infections or inflammation.
6. Visit your healthcare professional
If you’re concerned about your or your child’s ear health or hearing, visit your GP or practice nurse for an ear check. Sometimes conditions such as glue ear have few or no symptoms so can be easy to miss.
You should also visit your GP if you have symptoms such as severe ear pain, ear discharge that is white, yellow, clear or bloody or has lasted more than 5 days, or if you can’t hear clearly.
You can call Healthline 0800 611 116 if you’re not sure what to do.