DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My ears get wax buildup periodically. It never was a real problem until I started using hearing aids. Until then, the warm water idea worked. Last time, I had to have the doctor dig it out, and it was painful. Is there something I can drop in my ears to avoid this buildup and another painful cleaning, which I dread? - Mrs. H.M.L.

ANSWER: Some people do have a buildup problem, and hearing aids can make it worse by stimulating the cerumen (wax) glands in the ears.The answer is to try to keep the wax soft. You can do that with a few drops of warm baby or mineral oil dropped in with an eye dropper. If this doesn't work, you can gently irrigate the ears with warm water administered with a soft rubber ear syringe. You can get one at the drugstore.

Don't probe, and don't irrigate if there is chance of an eardrum puncture. Your doctor can settle that matter for you. (Perhaps the next cleaning will be less extensive and less uncomfortable.)

In ordinary circumstances, ear wax serves a purpose. It traps dust and germs. It's the outer ears' self-cleansing mechanism. In most people, the wax extrudes itself so imperceptibly you don't notice it's going on.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband is in excellent health, always on a low-fat diet. But he has had an attack of sorts. His skin yellowed for almost a week. After tests, including ultrasound, he was told his gall bladder was filled with stones. His color has returned to normal, so I guess the problem is over with. His doctor said the yellow was because his bile duct was blocked, that the stone there moved. He had only a slight temperature with the yellowness. He is watching his diet carefully. We have heard of new methods for stone removal. Could you comment? Because of his age, we are fearful of surgery. - V.L.

ANSWER: When gallstones act up once, they usually will again. You seem to understand that. Non-surgical treatments, such as stone-dissolving medicines, are options today. They can have gratifying results but must be taken a long while and are expensive.

Another possibility is exposing the stones to an ether wash, done via a tube. Still another option is removal of the gall bladder with a laparoscope inserted abdominally. Also, doctors have been able to fragment stones in place with sound waves. In fact, I know from your address that there is a center doing that quite near you. See the gallstone report, available by writing to Dr. Donohue/No.40, Box 830, Gibbstown, NJ 08027-9909, enclosing a long, stamped, self-addressed envelope and $2.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have not seen your report on TMJ. I have the jaw clicking and popping. What can be done for this? - Mrs. L.J.

ANSWER: TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, the hinge joint of the jaw. Some people develop problems with this. Constant tension on the muscles of this joint can cause severe pain, as when chewing. I would check with a dentist. He or she can suggest muscle relaxants or devices to help bring the joint into alignment. Or there may be a bit of arthritis in the joint, in which case your family doctor can help you.

FOR E.S. - Eosinophils are types of white blood cells. They may show up in tests to indicate some kind of allergy going on. Write again and be a bit more specific about your reason for asking.

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