Our ears may be our most abused body part. We pierce them, subject them to deafening noise, force cotton swabs inside them, and burn them with ear candling. Despite supplying us with one of our most crucial senses, we rarely give our ears, or our hearing, much appreciation or consideration.
That is, up until there are problems. Then, we realize just how crucial healthy hearing really is—and how we ought to have practiced proper ear care earlier. The trick is to comprehend this before the harm is done.
If you want to avoid problems and preserve your hearing, avoid these 4 unsafe 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 slim 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 draws earwax up into the tube.
Except that it does not, for two reasons.
First, 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 called for to suck up earwax would rupture 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 customary way and burning other candles without inserting them into the ear. The residue was exactly the same for both groups.
Ear candling is also harmful and is strongly opposed by both the FDA and the American Academy of Otolaryngology (physicians specializing in the ear, nose, and throat), if you need any additional reasons not to do it.
2. Employing cotton swabs to clean your ears
We’ve written about this in other posts, but inserting any foreign object into your ear only drives the earwax against the eardrum, generating an impaction and potentially a ruptured eardrum and hearing loss.
Your earwax contains helpful antibacterial and lubricating characteristics, and is organically expelled by the normal motions of the jaw (from speaking and chewing). All that’s needed from you is standard showering, or, if you do have issues with too much earwax, a professional cleaning from your hearing practitioner.
But don’t take our word for it: just look at the back of the package of any pack 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 just not equipped to manage the loud sounds we’ve discovered how to create. In fact, any sound louder than 85 decibels has the potential to create irreversible hearing loss.
How loud is 85 decibels?
A normal 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. Which means the jump 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 create a comparable output of 100 decibels or greater—all from inside of the ear canal. It’s no real surprise then that this can create irreparable harm.
If you would like to conserve your hearing, make sure to wear earplugs to concerts (and on-the-job if needed) and maintain 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 untimely hearing loss is not much cooler.
4. Disregarding the signs and symptoms of hearing loss
Finally, we have the distressing fact that individuals tend to wait nearly ten years from the onset of symptoms before seeking help for their hearing loss.
That indicates two things: 1) people needlessly experience the consequences of hearing loss for ten years, and 2) they render their hearing loss much harder 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 degree of hearing you get back will be based on on the seriousness of your hearing loss, and since hearing loss tends to become more serious over the years, it’s best to get tested and treated as soon as you notice any symptoms.