In all other parts of the body, the superficial skin (the sqaumous epithelium) is constantly shed, usually as a result of friction from clothing or washing. This is not possible in the ear, so the ear cleans itself! Skin cells in the ear are formed at the ear drum and then they gradually move out along the ear canal. In the outer third of the ear canal there are sebaceous glands (sweat glands) which secrete cerumen. The cerumen mixes with the skin cells and this in turn forms ear wax. Most of the ear wax eventually falls out of the ears as the skin cells move out along the ear canal. Some wax in the ear canal is good, as it keeps the delicate skin of the ear canal moist and also can trap dirt and insects from entering the ear canal.

When you have ichthyosis, you have continual and widespread scaling of the skin. This can apply to the ears too. The skin scales in the ear can build up, block the ear canals and in some cases the hearing can be affected.  Sometimes the skin in the ear can be managed by applying regular softening drops such as olive oil in the hope that the skin scales eventually fall out of the ear canal. If this doesn’t occur, it may be necessary for the skin scales to be removed. This needs to be done either at the G.Ps or in an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) department. 

It is difficult to say how often that the ears will need to be cleaned out, as everyone is different. I would suggest that you try a monthly appointment and then alter accordingly.

If you feel that the hearing is affected, it would be advisable to have a hearing test.

Download The Ear Care For Ichthyosis Factsheet

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