Pressures Sores on the Ear - A guide to Hearing Loss

We tend to think of pressure sores as something which appears on areas of the body such as the base of the spine or the hips but they can appear on the ears as well. The reason for this is that the ears are a sensitive part of the body in much the same way some other parts are. If they are subject to a constant form of pressure, for example ill-fitting glasses or the strap on an oxygen mask then this causes a red patch on the ear which soon develops into a weeping sore.

What actually is a pressure sore?

A pressure sore is the result of trauma to the tissues. They tend to start as a small patch of red skin which has been exposed to constant pressure. This patch gradually worsens until the skin cracks which damages lower layers of tissues. If this is left untreated then it continues to the extent that deep layer tissues or even the bone is affected. Basically, blood flow to the area has become restricted because of this pressure which stops that area from receiving vital oxygen and nutrients. This prevents normal circulation which then leads to tissue damage. One of the main problems with these is that they happen very quickly but take a long time to heal.

Signs of a pressure sore

They first appear as a red spot on the ear which then develops into an open skin sore which oozes fluids and can be rather painful. Not every pressure sore is painful as the sore may be in an area which doesn’t have a nerve supply but in many other cases it causes discomfort. In respect of the ears: you may not think of the ears as somewhere which is prone to pressure sores but they are vulnerable than you imagine.

Someone who is confined to bed for a long time and requires oxygen on a regular basis is particularly at risk. The reason being for this is that the strap on an oxygen mask fits tightly round the ears which pinches or squeezes the skin in such a way that it restricts the blood supply to the ears. This pressure on the skin causes a red patch to appear which gradually develops into a sore or ulcer. Another risk factor is glasses: a pair of glasses which are too tight around the ear pieces will pinch the skin on the ears and so lead to a pressure sore. Elderly people, diabetics and people who are bed-ridden are most at risk. Does this affect hearing? Not usually unless fluid from the open sore oozes into the ear canal. If this happens then it may have a mild effect on hearing but this is more of an external ear problem.

Treatment of pressure sores on the ears

In this situation prevention is better than cure. This means ensuring that an oxygen mask fits correctly and placing some padding under the strap where it meets the ears to prevent this pressure. Glasses should be checked to see that they fit properly and adjustments made if necessary.

Tissue health in general can be boosted by not smoking, drinking plenty of fluids, eating healthily and being active. This will improve blood circulation which is vital for healthy tissues.

Any area prone to pressure sores should be checked on a regular basis to ensure that this condition has not developed or has progressed further. If pressure sores have developed on the ears then these will need to be cleaned and dressed.

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