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Dealing with Dolby

One of the fun parts of this time of year is all the new movie releases. I caught one last week, "Deck the Halls." Funny, but it could've been a "rental."

If you're fond of the "big screen," but find the sound level just a bit too loud, here's a tip on what NOT to do - learned from a very nice lady in my ER. I picked up her chart and the chief complaint was "foreign body in ear." The hairs on my neck stood up just a bit, as these foreign bodies can be a little tricky to get out.

As I walked into the room, there sat a well-dressed middle aged lady with a sheepish grin on her face. It seems that she had just come from a most enjoyable movie. But, as the film started, she found the sound level a bit uncomfortable. So, she rummaged through her purse to find something to use to dampen the sound. And, there they were - her pack of Tic Tacs. Well, she deftly popped one into each ear, then sat back and comfortably enjoyed the feature presentation.

When the film ended, she turned her head to her shoulder and put her finger in her ear... but, no Tic Tac! No matter how she tried, there was no retrieving the breath mint, so she headed to the Stanford ER.

I looked in her ear with my otoscope, and sure enough, there, shining white and bright, was the end of a Tic Tac. I scrounged up a small suction catheter, attached it to wall suction, then placed it carefully in her ear, and, fortunately, the surface of the mint was perfectly smooth. The mint was sucked up tightly to my catheter and out it came!

As I was mentally congratulating myself on choosing just the right tool to get a slippery foreign object out of a tight spot, the patient looked at me and asked if I could also get the one out of her other ear!

Well, I went “two-for-two.” After successful extraction of both Tic Tacs, this pleasant lady was ready for discharge from the ER. I advised that the next time she found Dolby to be a bit too loud she might try using large pieces of Kleenex as ear plugs. And, as she left, I complemented her on her remarkably fresh smelling ear lobes...

Stay alert and stay safe,
Dr. Bob
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About the Author

The Stanford Emergency Room is the center of emergency care at Stanford University.