Our ears may possibly be our most abused body part. We pierce them, subject them to deafening noise, stuff cotton swabs inside them, and burn them with ear candling. In spite of supplying us with one of our most important senses, we seldom give our ears, or our hearing, much gratitude or thought.
That is, until there are problems. After that, we comprehend just how important healthy hearing really is—and how we should have figured out proper ear care earlier. The trick is to comprehend this before the injury is done.
If you desire to avoid issues and safeguard your hearing, avoid these 4 dangerous 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 done. One end of a thin tube composed of cotton and beeswax is placed into the ear. The opposite end is set on fire, which allegedly creates a vacuum of negative pressure that draws earwax up into the tube.
Except that it does not, for two reasons.
First of all, the ear candle doesn’t create negative pressure. As expressed by Lisa M.L. Dryer, MD, earwax is sticky, so even if negative pressure was created, the pressure required to suck up earwax would end up rupturing the eardrum.
Second, while the wax and ash resemble earwax, no earwax is actually found within the ear candle after the treatment. Clinical psychologist Philip Kaushall investigated this by burning some ear candles the conventional way and burning other candles without placing them into the ear. The residue was the same for both groups.
Ear candling is also risky and is firmly 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 covered this in other posts, but inserting any foreign object into your ear simply forces the earwax against the eardrum, generating an impaction and possibly a ruptured eardrum and hearing loss.
Your earwax contains helpful antibacterial and lubricating properties, and is naturally expelled by the regular motions of the jaw (from speaking and chewing). All that’s needed from you is standard showering, or, if you do have problems with excessive earwax, a professional cleaning from your hearing consultant.
But don’t take our word for it: just look at the back of the package of any box of cotton swabs. You’ll notice a warning from the producers themselves advising you to not enter the ear canal with their product.
3. Listening to extremely loud music
Our ears are simply not equipped to handle the loud sounds we’ve learned how to generate. In fact, any sound louder than 85 decibels has the potential to produce permanent hearing loss.
How loud is 85 decibels?
An ordinary conversation registers at about 60, while a rock concert registers at over 100. But here’s the thing about the decibel scale: it’s logarithmic, not linear. This means the jump from 60 to 100 does not make the rock concert twice as loud, it makes it about 16 times as loud!
In the same way, many earbuds can achieve a similar output of 100 decibels or greater—all from inside the ear canal. It’s no real surprise then that this can create permanent injury.
If you want to preserve your hearing, ensure that you wear earplugs to concerts (and at work if necessary) and keep your portable music player volume at about 60 percent or less of its maximum 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. Dismissing the signs of hearing loss
Finally, we have the unsettling fact that individuals tend to wait nearly a decade from the start of symptoms before searching for help for their hearing loss.
That indicates 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 harder to treat.
It’s true that hearing aids are not perfect, but it’s also true that with modern technology, hearing aids are extraordinarily effective. The level of hearing you get back will be based on on the extent of your hearing loss, and seeing that hearing loss has a tendency to get worse as time passes, it’s best to get tested and treated the moment you notice any symptoms.