Ear Mites in Humans: Symptoms & Treatment

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  • 0:03 Itchy Ears
  • 0:57 Assessment and Background
  • 1:29 What Are Ear Mites?
  • 2:30 Symptoms
  • 2:52 Treatment
  • 4:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Ear mites are tiny parasites that can feed off of human skin cells, oils, and wax. In this lesson, you'll learn about the symptoms caused by ear mites and what you can do to treat this uncomfortable infestation.

Itchy Ears

Jazmine, a college student, lives in a dorm and shares a room with her life-long best friend. Other than their class schedules, the pair shares everything from hair brushes to beauty products. They are constantly at each other's sides.

Jazmine's roommate returns from volunteering at an animal shelter, and the two head out for dinner after a quick shower. Later that night as Jazmine gets ready for bed, she feels an itchy sensation inside her left ear. Assuming it is leftover water from the shower, she pays it no mind and goes to sleep.

A few days later, Jazmine wakes up with severe itchiness and discomfort in her left ear. It is significantly worse than last week, and she walks to the health clinic on campus to have it evaluated.

Assessment and Background

Jazmine is taken into a room to have her ear examined with an otoscope, a medical instrument used to look deep inside the ear. The nurse practitioner immediately spots tiny white moving bumps in her ear canal and suspects ear mites. Her ear is swabbed so a sample can be inspected under a microscope. While Jazmine waits for her diagnosis to be confirmed, another nurse answers her questions about ear mites.

What Are Ear Mites?

Ear mites are pesky creatures that can be found on animals as well as humans on rare occasion. Spotted within Jazmine's ear canal, mites may also live on the skin or even underneath it to feed off dead skin tissue or human secretions like ear wax and skin oils. Although infestation is rare among humans, some ear mites are easily transmitted by jumping from one person or animal to another. In Jazmine's case, it is likely that the mites were transmitted from her roommate's volunteer uniform, and further transferred to a collection of shared shower towels they both use.

Ear mites are known as parasites, meaning they depend on another organism to live. This means that the parasite will live on or even inside their host if the conditions are right. Ear mites have difficulty surviving when separated from a host, or living in dry areas.

Symptoms

In addition to general discomfort to her left ear, Jazmine also experienced the following symptoms:

  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Waxy dirt when cleaning her ear with a cotton swab

These symptoms, along with a physical and microscopic assessment, confirmed Jazmine's diagnosis of ear mites.

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