The Badness of...Excessive Earwax

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True story: I have an earwax problem. A few weeks ago, Pam and I decided to go swimming one evening at our apartment complex. It was a cold night, so we got into the hot tub first, then double-dog-dared each other to go and jump into the freezing cold swimming pool. We decided to do a countdown from 3 and then jump in together, but my wily wife decided to push me in on 1. I was not amused.

Long story short, when I emerged from the depths of the deep end, both of my ears had water in them. "No biggie," I thought, since this has happened to me many times. I shook my head from side to side and waited patiently for the water to drain out, to no avail. When we got back to our apartment, Pam suggested putting some alcohol in my ears, since it would cause the water to evaporate more quickly. What transpired next was not pleasant. As the alcohol burrowed its way into my ear canal, it felt like it was literally melting my brains. The end result was the opposite of the intended outcome, as both ears were now completely blocked. I couldn't hear anything!


If this has ever happened to you, you understand how ridiculously disorienting and frustrating it can be. I felt powerless and scared, and had convinced myself that I would be deaf forever. I may or may not have had a full-on panic attack complete with hyperventilating and uncontrollable crying. It was one intense situation at the Clayborn house that evening.

Pam somehow calmed me down and persuaded me to sleep on it and see if I could hear more in the morning. Unfortunately, it was no better the next day, so I made an appointment to see a doctor for that afternoon (which was surprisingly difficult to do, since I had to schedule an appointment on the phone and I literally couldn't hear!). After examining my ears for approximately 12 seconds, he told me that my ears were nearly completely clogged with hardened earwax, and that he hadn't seen a case as bad as mine in years. Pretty disgusting, right?!

He told me to go to a drug store and buy a non-prescription miracle drug called Debrox, which pretty much changed my life. Debrox are ear drops that soften hardened earwax so it can be removed safely by flushing with water. I put the drops in my ears twice a day and left it in for 30 minutes, where it bubbled and tingled and did its magic. Then, the fun part was using a bulb syringe to spray water into my ear canals and see how many chunks of ear wax would emerge.  Slowly, over the course of four days, probably a teaspoon of earwax dripped out and I gradually regained my hearing.

What I learned from this strangely traumatic experience is that I really took my sense of hearing for granted. It's quite amazing how much you rely on your sense of hearing to make sense of the world around you. I also learned that my ears are out-of-control earwax producers and require regular preventative maintenance. I will now be "debroxing" my ears monthly.

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