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Severe pain during ear cleanse
dogswind posted:
Backstory: I had tubes when I was a toddler. After they came out, one eardrum never healed. I had to have surgery to have it repaired. Ever since then, it's just been very sensitive. Just blowing my nose too hard will cause it to hurt, so I avoid doing that.

Over the past year or so, I've been having problems with wax buildup. The first time I went to my doctor for this, I felt an unbearable pain when the nurse started to shoot that rinse into my ear. It got worse the longer it went on, and I actually had to pull it out before she could finish. The pain was so bad I had tears running down my face where my eyes started watering. Then, she moved on to the ear that healed on its own, and I felt no discomfort whatsoever. So the doctor checked, and he said it looked like I had an ear infection in the repaired ear. He said the pain was from that, prescribed meds, and that was it. I had a throbbing earache for two days following this experience, and then random sharp pains for a few days after the throbbing stopped.

Fast forward to a few months ago, I was going for buildup issues again. Only this time, I opted to go to my ENT specialist. The exact same thing happened again. No infection either. He had to finish up cleaning it with a tool, which was painless after the rinse got all but one small bit of wax. He checked everything out, said all looked good but it looked inflamed or irritated. He gave me some mineral drops to use for three days. I had the throbbing pain again, followed by random pains.

My question is, is this actually normal for someone who has a repaired eardrum? Days of throbbing pain just from getting my ears cleaned..? How am I supposed to keep the wax from building up without hurting it?? I feel like the doctors brush it off as overreacting, but I have a very high tolerance for pain. This just happens to be the worst pain I have ever experienced. It didn't even hurt that bad when I was first recovering from surgery. Can anyone shed some light on this?
Rod Moser, PA, PhD responded:
No, it is not normal to have pain from an ear lavage, whether you had a tympanoplasty (repair of your eardrum) or not. While it is possible that this repaired ear is anatomically more sensitive, I really couldn't tell you since I do not know the details of your case, nor can I examine you.

Cleaning out a wax impaction with a curette is fine, if your medical provider has the skill. Water lavage isn't necessary. Assuming your eardrum is intact, you could pre-soften any wax a few days before a lavage to make the procedure easier, and insist on a more gentle approach. There are even prescription topical solutions that can numb the eardrum before any of these procedures.

If you are an over-producer of wax, there is really nothing you can do to prevent it, but you can wash out your own ears periodically (I know YOU will be gentle) and get a trusted friend/spouse to examine you ears with a home otoscope (about $30).