4 Things You Should Never Do to Your Ears
Our ears might possibly be our most mistreated body part. We pierce them, subject them to deafening noise, shove cotton swabs inside them, and burn them with ear candling. Despite supplying us with one of our most critical senses, we rarely give our ears, or our hearing, much gratitude or consideration.
That is, right until there are problems. Then, we recognize just how crucial healthy hearing really is—and how we should have practiced proper ear care earlier. The secret is to recognize this before the harm is done.
If you desire to avoid issues and preserve your hearing, stay away from these 4 hazardous practices.
1. Ear Candling
Ear candling is a method of eliminating earwax, and additionally, as one researcher put it, “the triumph of ignorance over science.”
Here’s how ear candling is carried out. One end of a thin tube made of cotton and beeswax is inserted into the ear. The other end is set on fire, which supposedly creates a vacuum of negative pressure that sucks earwax up into the tube.
Except that it doesn’t, for two reasons.
First of all, the ear candle doesn’t generate negative pressure. As explained by Lisa M.L. Dryer, MD, earwax is sticky, so even if negative pressure was created, the pressure called for to suck up earwax would rupture the eardrum.
Second, while the wax and ash resemble earwax, no earwax is actually discovered within the ear candle following the therapy. Clinical psychologist Philip Kaushall tested this by burning some ear candles the standard way and burning other candles without inserting them into the ear. The residue was the same for both groups.
Ear candling is also dangerous and is fervently opposed by both the FDA and the American Academy of Otolaryngology (physicians specializing in the ear, nose, and throat), if you require any additional reasons not to do it.
2. Using cotton swabs to clean your ears
We’ve written about this in other posts, but inserting any foreign object into your ear simply presses the earwax against the eardrum, generating an impaction and possibly a ruptured eardrum and hearing loss.
Your earwax contains beneficial antibacterial and lubricating characteristics, and is naturally eliminated by the regular motions of the jaw (from speaking and chewing). All that’s needed from you is normal showering, or, if you do have issues with excessive earwax, a professional cleaning from your hearing practitioner.
But don’t take our word for it: just look at the back of the packaging of any pack of cotton swabs. You’ll discover a warning from the manufacturers themselves advising you to not enter the ear canal with their product.
3. Listening to exceedingly loud music
Our ears are simply not equipped to handle the loud sounds we’ve discovered how to create. In fact, any sound louder than 85 decibels has the potential to produce permanent hearing loss.
How loud is 85 decibels?
An average conversation registers at about 60, while a rock performance registers at over 100. But here’s the thing about the decibel scale: it’s logarithmic, not linear. That means the leap from 60 to 100 decibels does not make the rock concert twice as loud, it makes it about 16 times as loud!
Similarly, many earbuds can produce a comparable output of 100 decibels or greater—all from within the ear canal. It’s no real surprise then that this can create permanent harm.
If you prefer to preserve your hearing, ensure that you wear earplugs to concerts (and on-the-job if necessary) and maintain your portable music player volume at about 60 percent or less of its max volume (with a 60 minute listening time limit). It may not be cool to wear earplugs to your next concert, but premature hearing loss is not much cooler.
4. Overlooking the signs of hearing loss
And finally, we have the unsettling fact that individuals have the tendency to wait nearly 10 years from the start of symptoms before seeking help for their hearing loss.
That means two things: 1) people needlessly suffer the negative effects of hearing loss for 10 years, and 2) they make their hearing loss a great deal more difficult to treat.
It’s true that hearing aids are not perfect, but it’s also true that with modern technology, hearing aids are extremely effective. The extent of hearing you get back will be based on on the seriousness of your hearing loss, and given that hearing loss tends to get more serious as time passes, it’s best to get tested and treated as soon as you notice any symptoms.