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The nurse's role in ear care: undertaking hearing assessment and ear cleaning

14 March 2019
8 min read
Volume 28 · Issue 5
Figure 1. The outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear
Figure 1. The outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear


Noreen Kilkenny, Senior Lecturer, Adult Nursing, Northumbria University,, describes the physiology and anatomy of the ear, common abnormalities and the procedures that nurses should follow in assessing and diagnosing ear conditions and hearing problems in adults

Hearing loss is a common condition, affecting about 9 million people in England. It usually happens gradually as people get older and is most common in people over 65. Hearing difficulties can happen at any age and have several causes. People often put off getting help for hearing loss, yet it can have a major impact on their quality of life, causing them to lose confidence and feel isolated from family and friends. It can also lead to depression and anxiety (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2018).

Consequently, monitoring and maintenance of hearing are fundamental parts of nursing assessment (Dougherty et al, 2015). Apart from hearing, ears are crucial for balance, and poor hygiene can contribute to poor hearing and cerumen impaction (also known as earwax impaction) (Millward, 2017).

It is important that health professionals understand the anatomy and physiology of the ear to enable them to assess and diagnose ear conditions. The ear has three main parts (Figure 1):

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