Acute Otitis Externa (AOE)

The condition implies a painful inflammation or infection of the external ear canal. The common cause of AOE is attempting to clean the ear canal using cotton bud or other objects such as hair pins, paper clips or even match sticks. Vigorous attempts to clean the ear canals with these objects will damage the skin of the ear canal which gets infected and inflamed resulting in severe ear pain. Often attempts to remove the wax results in pushing it even deeper in the ear canal. AOE can be extremely painful.

Treatment is aimed at pain control and treating the inflammation and infection. It may take a few days for the pain and inflammation to subside.


In the picture shown above the patient tried to clean the right ear with a cotton bud. He presented with severe ear pain and echoing sensation in the ear. Note the inflamed ear canal and tympanic membrane. In the left ear there is some dry wax in the deep part of the ear canal. This has been pushed in by the use of cotton bud.





  1. Wax is produced by the outer part of the ear. Any wax found in the deep part of the ear canal is likely to have been pushed in
  2. Ear canal has a self-cleaning mechanism in place where by the shed skin and the ear wax along with it migrate outwards and fall off.
  3. Ear wax in the ear is not a bad thing. It prevents the ear canal from getting infected.
  4. Some people produce a lot of wax which may require removal. Do not attempt to remove it yourself with cotton bus or sharp objects.


  1. Do not use any objects to clean the ears.
  2. Cotton buds do not “remove” the wax but push it even deeper.