'A cotton bud nearly killed me': Aussie mum's warning

Here, Jasmine, tells the story in her own words.


I rubbed my ear gingerly as the shrill ringing sound returned.

"It's back,'' I moaned to my fiancé Bryon, 39.

I'd been suffering hearing loss and an infuriating noise in my left ear on and off for years. Now I was getting earaches too.

Cleaning my ears every night with cotton buds, I felt a dull ache as I prodded.

Ouch, I thought.

The hearing problems were so bad I could barely hear my youngest sons, Dylan, 10, and Cody, eight.


Jasmine had no idea how dangerous her simple cleaning habit could be.
Jasmine had no idea how dangerous her simple cleaning habit could be.


Discharge and deafness


"Sorry, what did you say?" I'd have to ask, edging closer and craning my right ear towards them.

Eventually heading to a doctor, I was given antibiotics for an ear infection. But nothing changed.

After a while, I noticed a brownish discharge on the end of the bud.

Then blood started appearing.

"You need to see the doctor again,'' Bryon worried.

Another GP recommended I take a hearing test. The results indicated I was suffering moderate deafness in my left ear.

How can that be? I'm only 37, I thought, horrified.


Me and Byron. Photo: that's life! Australia.
Me and Byron. Photo: that's life! Australia.


Five years too late

Concerned, my doctor referred me to an ear, nose and throat specialist.

After a CT scan, the specialist sat me down.  

"You should have come to see me four or five years ago,'' he said bluntly. I felt my chest tighten. What is he talking about? I thought.   He explained that a severe bacterial infection was eating away at my skull behind my ear.  

"You need surgery yesterday," he told me.

I felt sick.  

It was February last year, and Bryon and I were due to get married in April, then honeymoon in May.  

When I went back to the specialist to discuss my options, he gave me a sinister warning.  

"You won't be flying anywhere in May,'' he said.


My rotten ear. Photo: that's life! Australia.
My rotten ear. Photo: that's life! Australia.



Life-saving surgery


Without the surgery, the infection could eat right through to my brain.  

"You could die,'' he added.  

Because the specialist was based in Adelaide and not back in the area for a while, he booked the surgery for after the wedding and Bryon and I postponed our honeymoon.  

Thankfully, most of the preparations had been done and Bryon did the rest.   In April last year, I stood at the altar and married the man of my dreams.   You would have no idea I had an infection eating its way to my brain!  

"Nothing was stopping me marrying you," I smiled to my new hubby.  

"Now let's just get you better!" Bryon replied, hugging me.  

The next month, I went under the knife to have the infection removed.  

Surgeons had to reconstruct my ear canal and take out the affected tissue during a five-hour surgery.  

While I was still drowsy from the anaesthesia, the surgeon sat down with me.  

"What have you been putting in your ear?'' he quizzed me.  

"Just cotton buds,'' I answered, feeling confused.

"How far did you go down?" he asked.


The infection was eating through my skull. Photo: that's life! Australia.
The infection was eating through my skull. Photo: that's life! Australia.


Cotton fibres the culprit

It turned out that, shockingly, the fibres from my cotton buds had managed to lodge themselves in my ear, becoming infected.  

"If you'd waited any longer, you'd be dead,'' the surgeon explained.  

"How long was I walking around with that in my head?'' I asked in horror.  

The cotton had been collecting and festering for as long as five years, and my skull bone behind the ear was paper-thin.  

I had no idea that a hidden killer was wedged inside my ear!  

Despite the operation clearing the infection, my hearing has been permanently damaged.  

I need Bryon to walk on my right side when we're together so I can hear him, and a firecracker could go off beside my ear and I'd barely register it.   As my ear healed, I asked the doctor what I could've done differently.  

"You pushed the cotton bud way too far,'' he said. "And you did it much too regularly.''  

He suggested I try ear candling or have a doctor irrigate my ears with water instead.  

Now, nearly a year since the operation, I'm still struggling to hear. I do have the option of a hearing aid, but my pride has gotten in the way and I refuse to wear one yet.  

I shudder to think what might have happened if I put off seeing a doctor any longer.

It's important to visit a GP as soon as you notice something is wrong.   If I'd gone when I first started hearing the noise, I could've saved my hearing.   I now try to warn everyone of the dangers of misusing cotton buds.  

Our ears are such delicate and sensitive parts of our body and need to be treated with care.  

It's so scary that my simple act of hygiene could have cost me my life.


This story originally appeared in that's life! Australia and has been republished here with permission.