Voltaire famously referred to ears as the “road to the heart” and if you take a moment to think about your favourite song and how it moves you, you can see how he may have been onto something. It’s not just hearing, they also play a key function in maintaining the body’s balance. Caring for the ears involved caring for both the inner and outer parts. Here are some tips to keep in mind to protect them and your hearing too.
Outer ear care
Apply sunscreen to your ears when outdoors. It’s easy to forget to cover them, leaving them vulnerable. This is why they are a common location for skin cancer spots. If sunscreen is not an option, consider using a hat when outdoors.
For pierced ears
Clean your earrings and earlobes regularly with rubbing alcohol or methylated spirit.
Always wear a helmet when you bike, ski, rollerblade, or engage in other activities that may put your head at risk.
Inner ear care
How to clean your ears
Contrary to popular opinion, ear wax is actually a good thing. It plays several key roles including protecting the ear canal, helping the ear clean and lubricate itself as well as protecting it from bacteria, fungi, insects, water and anything else that may find its way into the ears.
The ear is self-cleaning so there’s nothing you need to be doing to clean it inside. In fact, it is advised that you not put anything into it. If left alone, old ear wax slowly migrates out of the ears as a result of jaw movements. Inserting things into the ear only risks pushing the ear wax further and in the case of pointed objects risks puncturing the ear canal or the eardrum. If the wax has caught bacteria and other pathogens, using q-tips and pushing it in can lead to an infection. Allow nature to run its course for the inner parts and simply use a washcloth to wipe the outer ear after your bath or shower. Health Complications: Here Is Why You Should Be Careful About Removing Earwax From Your Ears
If you are afraid you may have some kind of wax build-up or experience itching and pain, visit your audiologist or ENT (Ears, Nose, and Throat) specialist.
General care tips
Exercise and diet
Diets rich in antioxidants, magnesium, omega-3, vitamins A and E can help protect your ears and keep hearing loss at bay. Cardio exercises like walking, running, or cycling also get blood pumping throughout the body, including the ear.
Avoid loud noises
Approximately 15% of Americans have hearing loss induced by loud noises either at work or in their leisure environments. Any noise that forces you to shout in order to be heard including lawnmowers, chainsaws, concerts, and more all create dangerous levels of sound putting your ears at risk. Use earplugs when working with loud equipment or gear.
Better yet, if possible, avoid loud noise especially when concentrated into the ear canal through headphones or earphones. Turn the volume down. Researchers suggest you listen with headphones at no more than 60% of the volume for no more than 60 minutes a day.
Time to recover
If you have been exposed to loud noises for a prolonged period of time, give them some time to recover by stepping outside for five minutes or so every so often. Researchers have discovered that the ears need an average of 16 hours to recover from a loud night out.
Blow your nose gently
The ears, nose, and throat are connected in the body. For this reason, it’s advised that you blow gently and teach children to do the same. When sneezing it’s best practice to pinch the nostrils to make it gentle as well.
Quit smoking and avoid smokers
Smoking has a negative effect on the body. It is a well-established risk factor for hearing loss. Studies show that cigarette smoke whether direct, secondhand or even in utero greatly impacts hearing health. Non-smokers living with smokers are twice as likely to develop hearing loss. Smokers are 60% more likely to develop hearing loss. Teens exposed to cigarette smoke are two to three times more likely to develop hearing loss compared to those with little or no exposure.
When flying, swallow and yawn regularly to equalize the pressure in your ears. Consider buying earplugs with special filters to help equalize air pressure when travelling.
Scuba divers and swimmers
Learn and practice proper underwater techniques to avoid potentially damaging changes in pressure inside the ear. Swimmers should also remember to dry the ears to prevent water from being retained in the ear which can create an environment that aids bacteria growth thus causing an infection. Just tip the head to the side and use a towel or cloth to dry after being in the water to prevent swimmer’s ear.
Manage stress levels
Ear problems like tinnitus in which there is a persistent ringing sound in the ears even when there is no external sound have been linked to stress. High levels of stress in the body put the body into fight or flight mode. This puts undue pressure on the nerves, blood flow, body heat, and more and may compromise the functioning of various parts, including the ear.
See a doctor
If you experience any problems like loss of hearing or pain or are in any way concerned, consider visiting an audiologist or ENT specialist. Early intervention is the key to preventing further development of the problem.