Wax in the ear canal can act as an ear plug, blocking sound waves from striking the eardrum. Wax softening drops can help. Softened wax may spontaneously leave the canal, be irrigated out or be removed by a physician, audiologist or other trained personnel. Cotton swabs should never be used by parents in an attempt to remove wax. The cotton swab may actually push the wax deeper into the canal or even puncture the eardrum.
Parents should guard against children putting small objects in their ears such as beads and food items. Sound can be impeded or an eardrum ruptured. The ear canal may become inflamed if the surface lining is damaged by the object.
Another common condition affecting the outer ear canal is called “swimmer’s ear.” This external ear canal infection may be painful and cause the ear canal to swell shut, resulting in temporary hearing loss. Usually this is a bacterial infection which develops in an ear canal that remains wet after bathing or swimming.
The most common cause of conductive hearing loss in children is otitis media, a condition of the middle ear. The two main types of otitis media are Acute Otitis Media (AOM) and Otitis Media with Effusion (OME). AOM is a sudden onset of ear pain that may be associated with fever, restlessness and some hearing loss. OME is the presence of fluid in the middle ear that lasts for more than three months. Both conditions are treatable, though it is important to diagnose otitis media early to prevent permanent damage to the inner ear and ensure a child does not miss out on the important early years of language learning.