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Sunday, 16 August 2009

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Don't meddle with your ears



Dr. Chandra Jayasuriya

Have you been using cotton buds and even using it on your children? "You shouldn't use cotton buds because by inserting them into your ears, you make it a good environment for bacteria and fungus to grow", said E.N.T. surgeon Dr. Chandra Jayasuriya of the Colombo General Hospital. She said the mature wax cells in your ear naturally clean on its own which is known as 'epithelial migration'. "By using cotton buds, you push the mature cells back into the ear causing more problems of bacteria and fungi," said the doctor, who completed her training in the E.N.T. surgery in Sri Lanka in 1996 after which she underwent overseas training in the UK at Tameside Acute Case, Ashtonunderlyne. Dr. Jayasuriya is the current Scientific Secretary of the College of Otolaryngologists and Head & Neck Surgeons of Sri Lanka while being the founder president and present secretary of the Sri Lanka Larnyngectomy Association.

Speaking to the Sunday Observer about ear ailments, Dr.Jayasuriya said it come in two types: acute and chronic. "Acute ear problems can be treated promptly while chronic ones need to be treated over a longer time with frequent visits to the E.N.T." said Dr. Jayasuriya who has pioneered the productivity improvement program in the E.N.T unit by implementing the 5 S method which was bestowed the National Quality award.

"In infants, there is a 70% risk of getting ear infections and a 90% risk for children because they are prone to infections occurring from colds and sore throats as the ear and throat are joined at the eustachian tube," said the doctor. Symptoms for ear problems are diarrhoea, noisy breathing from the mouth and ear pain. At the Lady Ridgeway Hospital, every day there are surgeries done on children for foreign bodies penetrating the ear. "If insects penetrate the ear, make sure you don't pull it out. It should be killed first and taken out by a doctor," she said. In adults, insect removal from ears should be done under the supervision of an E.N.T. doctor .

In cases of assault, those suffering from burst ear drums should be treated promptly. "If it's a small perforation in the ear drum (burst ear drum), then it will heal on its own provided no water penetrates but if it is larger, surgery using the grafting technique is vital to rectify the problem," said Dr. Jayasuriya who is the author of a book called 'Obey Penayata Pilithurak' which is a popular question-answer book on common ear ailments. "Sometimes we receive mature adult patients having severe earaches for a tiny hair follicle enlargement problem.

This is because there is little space in the ear so if a hair follicle enlargens (due to dust or bacteria), it causes massive pain," said the doctor.

Another aspect of ear problems is fungi growing in the ears. Dr.Jayasuriya said there are two types of fungi: aspegilus (black spores) and candida (white spores). "If people live in squalid conditions or use stagnant water to wash, then fungi can grow. Of course, using cotton buds can also increase the risk of catching fungi," she said.

In diabetic patients, there is a risk of ear problems because their immune system isn't strong enough to resist infection. "Sugar in the body also provides a good environment for infections to occur" said Dr. Jayasuriya.

Another problem in some cases is when the pressure builds up in the middle ear and a small discharge exudes from the ear. "This condition is a silent infection that should be treated promptly by an experienced E.N.T. surgeon because it can lead to deafness and eventual loss of hearing," she said.

Speaking about mobile phone usage and headphones, Dr.Jayasuriya said it is not scientifically proven that it damages your ears but heavy users should be careful. "Try to use the loudspeakers of your mobile to minimise radiation" she advised. In addition to this, Dr. Jayasuriya said safety regulations should be introduced to minimise hearing impairments at workplaces.

We are bombarded with noise pollution every day and hence, it is important to protect your ears. Being a vital organ in your body, you definitely can't live without your ears.

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