I’ve thought about this oil thing and tried to figure out some logic in it, and I’ve come to the decision that it was a post hoc sort of thing.
You’re right to assume that your trouble was caused by flying with a sinus infection. The pressure changes involved in changing altitude causes one’s Eustacian tubes to go into overdrive. Some of the mucous from your sinus area probably seeped into your middle ear cavity causing a dull quality to sound. The middle ear is normally an air-filled space, so once any sort of fluid gets in there (either by a Eustacian tube problem bringing in foreign matter from the sinus, water seeping in by way of an eardrum perforation, or in response to a middle ear bacterial infection) - well, just think of talking underwater. Your condition probably just took care of itself in time - all the middle ear fluid recessed back down the Eustacian tube to the back of your throat (<-- this part was especially mentioned to all you who are “grossed out”) - and you just THOUGHT that the oil treatment was the cure. That’s my take on it, at least.
This alcohol treatmet is just not necessary. It wasn’t even necessary when you were an avid lake and river swimmer. Whatever bacteria that may have gotten into your ears through that experience stayed in your outer ear (I’m assuming you didn’t have a eardrum perforation here) which is not very prone to infection. Infection IS possible, but not likely since the outer ear has been built to be “exposed the elements”. That’s why it has skin. Actually, most of the outer ear infections I saw started as lacerations to the thin skin (usually through aggressive q-tip use, btw) which went unchecked.
Continuing this relatively constant post-shower alcohol treatement is just plain overkill. Just letting some warm water run in and out of your ears a couple of times will do the trick. The alcohol exposure will only dry out your ear’s skin, thereby making your wax dryer, thereby making your wax more likely to get impacted (gooey wax moves out more easily, whereas crusty wax likes to stick to the ear walls). Then there’s the fact that dry skin becomes itchy skin, so you may be leading yourself down the path to which erislover has already succumbed: scratching that itch with pen caps (I shudder at the thought…my Dad uses a pencil!)
For my patients who had a chronic cerumen impaction problem, oil or peroxide treatment would be recommended (to “loosen things up”). It just isnt’ necessary otherwise. Peroxide flushed in and out of the outer ear really doesn’t affect much that goes on in the middle ear. Remember that these two sections are completely separated by the eardrum. Peroxide will not get into your middle ear cavity by way of the outer ear (unless, as I’ve said before, you have an eardrum perforation), and the middle ear is where most ear infections happen. While peroxide is less potent than alcohol, I think it will still take the same toll in the long run in drying out your skin and causing the above-mentioned problems.