ONE OF the fundamental principles of the osteopathic discipline is that the body is a self healing mechanism. Just think about that idea for a moment.
It could be rephrased as ‘the body solves its own problems’ or ‘the body gets itself better’. Does this make sense? Well, yes, if you, for example, cut your finger, initially it bleeds and the wound gapes open, but very quickly the bleeding slows and stops, and the wound edges draw together. A temporary sealing of the wound occurs and, quite quickly after that, new skin forms, the damaged tissue underneath is repaired and then replaced, and low and behold, your finger is as good as new! This happens without any outside input. No one has to make this happen, it just does, because the body is a self-healing mechanism.
So now, if we turn our attention to ear problems and most especially to recurrent ear infections, or otitis media, the question to ask is what has gone wrong with the self healing mechanism? To answer this question, we need to look at the basic anatomy of the ear.
The bone that makes up the side of the head, where the ear is located, is called the temporal bone. It is made up of three parts: the squamous, which is mostly above the ear canal and forms part of the side of the head, the mastoid, which is the pointed part just below and behind the ear, and the petrous portion, which is inside the head. This petrous part contains the workings of the ear and this is where ear infections happen.
If you were to take a walk down your ear canal, you would come to a wall – this is the tympanic membrane, or eardrum. This makes an effective seal and vibrates when you hear any noise. It passes this vibration on to the little bones in the ear, which, in turn, send the sound through to the nerve and so to the brain, where it is decoded and you know what it is you have heard.
Next, you will go past the semicircular canals, which are fundamental to your sense of balance, then you take a turn downwards and can pass out of the ear and into the Eustachian tube. Follow this down and you will come out at the back of your throat near your tonsils. There is also a connection in the middle ear with the sinuses and the nasal passages. There is a lot of activity in these areas and waste products do build up, but the mechanism is designed to drain, so as to keep itself clean and free from infection.
As there are connections to the sinuses, nose and throat, any problems in these areas, which are open to the world, can rebound on the ear and vice versa. The most important thing for maintaining good health in these areas is good drainage, and for good drainage there must be good movement in the bones of the face and skull, most particularly in this case in the petrous bone. This movement flushes the middle ear out and pumps the waste down the Eustachian tube out into the throat.
There are bacteria and viruses in the air we breathe at all times and so the potential for infection is always there. This drainage mechanism stops any build up and so avoids any problems. The situation is slightly complicated in children, because their heads are underdeveloped, and the Eustachian tube is more horizontal, which makes drainage more difficult.
Antibiotic therapy relieves the acute stages of the problem, if it is a bacterial agent, but does not deal with the underlying cause, which is why this problem is so often recurrent. The only way to really change this is to get the temporal bone moving again and, for this, you need to see an osteopath, who works cranially, as they have the necessary skills.
An excellent aid to improving this whole area, which you can use yourself at home, is the Hopi Ear Candle. This was originally invented by the North American Indians and is a hollow tube of linen impregnated with essential oils. You put one end in your ear, far enough to make a seal, and then light the other end, burn the candle down to the red line and, when you open up the remainder, you will have all the earwax and so on in the bottom of your candle.
The candle is really a misnomer; it works using a chimney effect. The warmth and updraft of air stimulate the movement of the eardrum to soften and draw out the earwax. It is extremely gentle and can be used even if you have an active infection, when it will often relieve the pain greatly.
My daughter, who is now just nine years old, was prone to ear trouble when younger and I have used the candles on her to great benefit.
• If you want more information about alternative approaches to ear problems or to purchase ear candles, call Dr. Clarke on 917 464 672.