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People urged to avoid ‘Dr Google’ for DIY eye and ear health treatments

EXPERTS are warning people not to put their health at risk during lockdown by carrying out home treatments themselves but to make better use of professional online care tools available, such as Specsavers Ask The Expert Facebook group and web service.

Google search insights reveal that increasing numbers of people are looking for expertise online, with enquiries ranging from ‘how to remove earwax’ up by 49% and ‘how to fix my glasses’, as well as ‘glasses to use with headache’ increasing 28%.

Since the current lockdown began, Specsavers has seen a 12-fold increase in online enquires to its website and Facebook group.

Giles Edmonds, Specsavers clinical services director, says: ‘Luckily, we can catch people through our website and direct them to the right place for correct advice. But we are concerned that there are many people out there using search engines for self-diagnosis and potentially coming across DIY tips that are not medically robust or safe to do.’

There has been a 200% increase of people looking for earwax removal tools year on year, which is of particular concern to Specsavers’ chief audiologist Gordon Harrison. ‘Research in this field tells us that 65% of people are risking permanent damage to their hearing by attempting to remove earwax themselves.’

Of those who remove earwax at home, 69% are sticking cotton buds in their ears, a third (33%) use their fingers, while others opt for pencils (1%), paper clips (3%), hair grips (6%) and match sticks (3%). Shockingly, more than a third of people (41%) are doing this at least once a week.

Mr Harrison says all these items should be avoided as not only can they make matters worse but they can lead to serious and possibly permanent damage to your hearing.

‘The golden rule is never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear,’ he warns. ‘Usually your body will produce enough earwax to maintain ear health but sometimes this wax can become hard or impacted, which can lead to problems such as hearing loss or discomfort. Avoid putting anything in your ears that could push earwax further into your ear canal and lead to impacted wax, infection or even a perforated ear drum.

‘Earwax does usually fall out on its own but if it doesn’t and causes a persistent blockage, it’s best to seek professional advice.’

Likewise, when it comes to our eyes, Specsavers is asking people that they do not try to fix broken frames themselves in case they cause further damage to their specs. They are also urging people not to carry out DIY remedies to remove foreign items in the eye – something that stores have seen a sudden increase since the first lockdown as people tend to DIY jobs around house and garden.