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May 13, 2008

Eardrops may cause hearing loss

Certain over-the-counter earwax softeners can cause severe inflammation and damage to the inner ear and eardrum if the patient has a perforated eardrum.

Patients suffering from earwax build-up, causing discomfort in their ears and sometimes deafness, often use over-the-counter earwax softeners to break up and disperse excess wax.

A study of the effects of these medications on the cells of the ear, performed at Montreal Children's Hospital in Montreal, Canada, found, however, that some of these earwax softeners, depending on the condition of the eardrum, may cause severe inflammation and damage to the inner ear and eardrum, resulting in hearing problems.

Cerumenex was one such medication examined by the Canadian researchers. The researchers looked at the effect of the softener on hearing and the ear cells in chinchillas, whose hearing structure is similar to that in humans. The study found harmful effects in many of the cells in the ear after only one dose of Cerumenex had been given.

The researchers recommend that Cerumenex be used with caution if the status of the patient's eardrum is unknown.

A spokesman for the producer of Cerumenex stated that the company is aware of the study and is planning to follow up with the researchers at the Montreal Children's Hospital to review the full results. He added that the package insert clearly specifies not to use Cerumenex if there is a perforated eardrum, middle ear infection, atopic dermatitis or inflammation of the external ear, or a previous skin reaction.

Cerumenex was taken off the market in the USA in 2002 but is still sold in Canada and Europe.

Sources: Science Daily; The Washington Post.
Published on hear-it on May 13, 2008.

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