The responsibilities of parenthood are vast and innumerable, ensuring health and happiness, teaching responsibility and respect, showing the ways and rules of society and the world. However, chief among parental responsibilities is the health and safety of your child. One of the critical aspects of that obligation is caring for your child’s ears, ensuring they remain clean and functional, although some elements of form and function are out of your control.
Ears are critical parts of the body, contributing to both communication and balance. If neglected, these necessary appendages can lead to developmental problems in little ones, from mobility to speech and interaction issues. The remainder of this blog will discuss the ears function and design, but more importantly, how to care for kids ears, ensuring healthy growth and development of proper motor and speech skills.
Understanding the Ear’s Function and Design
Before discussing the importance and how-tos of ear care, it is vital to understand the anatomy of the ear. The ear is made of three primary parts:
- Outer Ear
- Middle Ear
- Inner Ear
Each part contributes to an individual’s ability to communicate and interact with the world. For instance, the outer ear includes the auricle or pinna, external auditory tube or canal, and tympanic membrane or eardrum, each helping to capture and transmit sound to the tympanic cavity, or the middle ear.
The middle ear consists of ossicles or three small bones — malleus, incus, stapes — and the eustachian tube. The bones connect to the inner ear, transmitting sound waves, and the eustachian tube helps equalize the ear’s pressure to ensure the proper transfer of the sound.
Finally, in the most protected position within the petrous part of the temporal bone, the inner ear consists of the cochlea, vestibule, and semicircular canals. The cochlea nerves are responsible for hearing, but equally important are the receptors for balance in the vestibule and semicircular canals.
Importance of Ear Care
A child’s ears, like most of their body, is still developing. Unfortunately, unlike their resilient limbs and flexible spines, children’s ears are more sensitive to external stimuli.
If there is one thing every parent is keenly aware of, kids are prone to sticking things where they don’t belong, crayons become nasal projectiles, dirt becomes a tasty pie, and who knows what can fill the void of the ear canal. While not every child will place foreign objects in their ears, most will use their fingers to satisfy a scratch or block out loud noises. As a parent, looking out for your child’s ear health, instill proper hand and mouth hygiene lessons early and often.
Beyond helping them learn correct hygiene, try to maintain a healthy environment for your children and their ears. Avoid smoking around them, adhere to vaccination schedules, get flu shots, and, if possible, breastfeed.
Cleaning Your Child’s Ears
Because children often lack the dexterity necessary to clean themselves, you, as the parent, will need to stick to an ear cleaning routine. Do not worry; the process is straightforward and noninvasive. You want to use a warm, damp washcloth and clean around the outer ear. You can use a cotton swab, but do not push it into your child’s ears because that can force earwax into the middle ear, causing blockages and leading to potential infections or hearing loss.
Suppose you notice a buildup of earwax that is hard and difficult to remove. In that case, you can apply two pipette drops of hydrogen peroxide, olive oil, or another over-the-counter product to loosen and soften the wax. You want to leave the drops in each ear for five minutes or for the time suggested in the purchased product’s directions. Make sure your child lies with the treated ear facing up. When the time is up, rinse the ear, remove the buildup, and dry with a washcloth or towel. Always consult your doctor if you have questions about these processes.
When To Seek Medical Attention
Children are prone to ear infections because of the eustachian tubes’ shape. However, it is challenging to know when an infection is present if your child is not exhibiting typical symptoms, like a change in hearing, pain, or fever.
Unfortunately, the only thing you can do is be extremely observant, looking for signs of excessive wax buildup, oozing pus, blood, or physical discomfort. If you notice any significant behavioral changes, take your child to the doctor. You should also take your little one to a medical professional if they have something stuck in their ear; premature removal can damage the ear.
Your kids’ ear care is integral to proper development and societal interactions. While it is easy to neglect the ears because of the many things parents must worry about, remember that the ears are the gateway to communication and play, responsible for language processing and balance. If you are unsure how to develop a healthy ear care routine, consider contacting Happy Ears Hearing, your pediatrician or another medical professional for more advice and specifics.