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. Despite supplying us with one of our most significant senses, we seldom give our ears, or our hearing, much gratitude or consideration.
That is, up until there are problems. Then, we recognize just how crucial healthy hearing really is—and how we should have learned proper ear care earlier. The trick is to recognize this before the harm is done.
If you desire to avoid problems and protect 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 accomplished. One end of a thin tube made 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 sucks 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 explained 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, although the wax and ash resemble earwax, no earwax is actually discovered within the ear candle following the treatment. Clinical psychologist Philip Kaushall investigated this by burning some ear candles the conventional 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 need 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 only pushes the earwax against the eardrum, generating an impaction and possibly a ruptured eardrum and hearing loss.
Your earwax consists of advantageous antibacterial and lubricating properties, and is organically eliminated by the normal motions of the jaw (from talking and chewing). All that’s required from you is standard showering, or, if you do have problems with excess earwax, a professional cleaning from your hearing specialist.
But don’t take our word for it: just take a look at the back of the packaging of any pack of cotton swabs. You’ll find 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 deal with the loud sounds we’ve figured out how to produce. In fact, any sound louder than 85 decibels has the potential to produce permanent hearing loss.
How loud is 85 decibels?
An everyday 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 leap from 60 to 100 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 higher—all from within the ear canal. It’s no real surprise then that this can create permanent harm.
If you want to preserve your hearing, ensure that you wear earplugs to live shows (and at work if needed) 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 untimely hearing loss is not much cooler.
4. Disregarding the signs and symptoms of hearing loss
Finally, we have the distressing fact that people have the tendency to wait nearly ten years from the beginning of symptoms before searching for help for their hearing loss.
That means two things: 1) people needlessly suffer the consequences of hearing loss for ten years, and 2) they render their hearing loss much more difficult to treat.
It’s true that hearing aids are not perfect, but it’s also true that with today’s technology, hearing aids are extremely effective. The degree of hearing you get back will depend on the extent of your hearing loss, and seeing that hearing loss tends to become more serious as time passes, it’s best to get tested and treated the moment you notice any symptoms.