Our ears may be our most abused body part. We pierce them, subject them to deafening noise, shove cotton swabs inside them, and burn them with ear candling. Despite providing us with one of our most crucial senses, we rarely give our ears, or our hearing, much gratitude or thought.
That is, up until there are problems. After that, we grasp just how important healthy hearing really is—and how we should have learned proper ear care sooner. The secret is to comprehend this before the damage is done.
If you desire to avoid problems and safeguard your hearing, avoid these 4 unsafe practices.
1. Ear Candling
Ear candling is a method of eliminating earwax, and also, as one researcher put it, “the triumph of ignorance over science.”
Here’s how ear candling is accomplished. One end of a narrow tube composed of cotton and beeswax is placed 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, the ear candle doesn’t create negative pressure. As stated 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 in fact 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 exactly the same for both groups.
Ear candling is also harmful 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. Employing cotton swabs to clean your ears
We’ve covered this in other articles, 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 beneficial antibacterial and lubricating characteristics, and is organically removed 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 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 package of any box of cotton swabs. You’ll notice a warning from the manufacturers 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 deal with the loud sounds we’ve learned how to generate. In fact, any sound louder than 85 decibels has the potential to initiate permanent hearing loss.
How loud is 85 decibels?
A normal 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. 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!
Likewise, many earbuds can create a comparable output of 100 decibels or greater—all from within the ear canal. It’s no real shock then that this can create permanent injury.
If you prefer to conserve your hearing, ensure that you wear earplugs to concerts (and on the job if necessary) and keep 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. Disregarding the signs of hearing loss
And finally, we have the distressing fact that people commonly wait nearly 10 years from the beginning of symptoms before searching for help for their hearing loss.
That means two things: 1) people unnecessarily suffer the consequences of hearing loss for ten 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 extremely effective. The level of hearing you get back will depend on the degree of your hearing loss, and seeing that hearing loss has a tendency to become more serious over the years, it’s best to get tested and treated the moment you notice any symptoms.