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General characteristics

General characteristics

The ears consist of 3 parts, the inner, middle and outer ear.
The outer ear consists of the earlobe (or pinna) and the ear canal (auditory canal) which leads to the eardrum (tympanic membrane). The outer ear structure captures sounds which are passed down the ear canal and vibrate onto the eardrum which in turn vibrates the structures of the middle ear. The ear canal produces ear wax and is lined with tiny hairs which helps to trap dirt and keep unwanted elements (such as bacteria) from reaching the delicate eardrum.

The middle ear consists of 3 tiny bones; the hammer (or malleus), the anvil (or incus) and the stirrup (or stapes) which are responsible for transmitting the sound waves captured by the outer ear to the fluid filled inner ear. Sound vibrations hit the eardrum and transfer the energy to the three sensitive bones which in turn transfer the sound energy through to the inner ear structures. The middle ear also houses the Eustachian tube which runs down into the back of the nose and throat. The Eustachian tube serves to drain any excess mucous from the middle ear into the nose/throat and helps to maintain normal pressure in the middle ear.

The inner ear which houses the cochlea, vestibule and semi-circular canals which are fluid filled structures. These structures transform the incoming sound energy into neural impulses to be interpreted by the brain. The vestibular nerve is concerned with balance and motion perception and the cochlear nerve deals with hearing. The nerves from these structures form into the auditory nerve (or vestibulocochlear nerve) which relays the electrical impulses to the auditory processing parts of the brain.

The term 'earache' is often used to describe any pain relating to the ear. Otitis is a common condition describing an inflammation of the middle ear (otitis media) which is often caused by infection, allergy, poor diet (high in starchy mucous forming foods and low in nutrients) and blocked Eustachian tubes. Otitis externa (swimmers ear) is an inflammation of the ear canal caused usually by bacterial or fungal infection.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

For chronic otitis media it is important to avoid mucous forming foods like dairy, wheat, processed grains, junk foods and starchy foods. Often a gluten free diet helps to prevent future outbreaks.

Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in the form of salads, soups or as lightly cooked side dishes.

Include plenty of onions, leeks, shallots, chives etc in the daily diet.

Include an abundance of garlic for its mucous thinning, anti-cattarhal and anti-microbial properties.

The warming, moving spices like ginger, cloves, cinnamon and chilli improve circulation and thin secretions and fluids.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Be careful of using ear washes and adding things into the ear if the eardrum is perforated, it may cause acute pain.

A clove of garlic, shaved at one end to reveal the juice can be inserted into the ear/s over night and will get to work while you sleep. If the garlic burns then put a few drops of olive oil in the ears first. This is safe even if the eardrum is perforated.

Warm mullein flower oil,, inserted in the ears and plugged with cotton wool has a soothing and healing action on most earaches.

An old gypsy remedy consists of simmering 7 unripe (green) field poppy seed heads in 100ml or so of milk for half an hour. The mixture is then strained, allowed to cool and then sprayed into the affected ear/s.

A herb tea consisting of herbal nervines such as chamomile, st johns wort, vervain and passion flower can help to relieve the pain and relax the patient. Use equal parts of each herb, 1 teaspoon per cup up to 3 times daily.

Drink plantain leaf tea if the ear is aching, especially if due to nerve inflammation or catarrhal build up.

Echinacea can be used as an antimicrobial during an attack of earache or as a preventative. Up to 10 ml of strong (at least 1:2) tincture 3 -4 times daily. Other useful antimicrobials include goldenseal, wild indigo and blue flag.

Herbs that stimulate the lymphatic system are very useful in cases of stubborn and chronic catarrh build up. A useful formula could contain elderflowers, cleavers, hyssop, mullein, peppermint and yarrow. Use equal parts of the dried herbs and use a heaped teaspoon of the mix per cup, 3 cups daily.

Lady's mantle tea can help a perforated eardrum.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Ear candling can help to cleanse the ear passages and cavities, but go to a professional for this therapy.
Cider vinegar washes can be useful to cleanse the ears and prevent future earaches. Wash the ears with warm water afterwards.

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