The ears play a crucially important role in the day-to-day functioning of the human body. Along with hearing, the ears aid you in keeping your balance through fluids inside the ear canal that let the brain sense movement. Both of these functions are necessary in order for you to operate normally in daily life. Failing to care for your ears properly can lead to progressive hearing loss, or other auditory damage that is potentially problematic. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about ear care so that you can help retain your sense of hearing well into your elderly years!
General Ear Care
One of the most frequent causes of ear damage, such as a ruptured eardrum, is an accidental byproduct of using small objects like bobby pins or cotton swabs to “clean” the ears. Earwax is the natural substance produced by your ears to protect against bacteria and infection. The ears have a natural cleaning process that will usually push excess wax to the outer ear, where it can easily be wiped away with a cloth. If you are bothered by too much wax buildup, you should visit your doctor, who can safely remove it for you.
Avoid Excess Noise
Loud noises destroy the small, sensitive hair cells inside the inner ear, which causes gradual hearing loss over time. Under some conditions, these hair cells are even more sensitive; for example, physical exercise increases blood flow to the heart, arms and legs while decreasing blood flow to the ears. As a result, the inner ear hair cells become more susceptible to noise. For this reason, you should refrain from listening to loud music on headphones while exercising or jogging.
Noise damage is ultimately caused by 2 factors: duration and volume. The volume of noise is scientifically measured in terms of decibels. Increasing noise by just 3 decibels doubles the relevant sound pressure. Normal conversation levels are about 60 decibels, while noises in excess of 90 decibels are known to cause hearing loss. There are a few easy methods to determine if you are being exposed to damaging sound levels:
1. If you’re around background noise that makes it difficult to understand a person who is a couple feet away and speaking at a normal level, the noise is likely at about 90 decibels. If you are exposed to this level of noise often, it may lead to hearing loss.
2. If you experience a feeling of fullness in your ears accompanied by a high pitched ringing after exposure to noise of any kind, then you are suffering from temporary hearing loss. If this regularly occurs twice a week or more, permanent hearing damage is almost certain to be in your future. Furthermore, if you attend a loud event – such as a rock concert – and your ears are still ringing when you get home, then this is a sign that permanent hearing damage has just occurred.
3. Keep noise to a reasonable level. Your headphones should not be loud enough for people next to you to hear them. Also, headphones are better for your hearing than ear buds, as ear buds often need to be used at a higher volume due to their lack of ability to block outside noises. Keep music at low levels and limit listening time. Better yet, forgo headphones and portable listening devices entirely and enjoy music from conventional speakers, at moderate sound levels, instead. When you must be exposed to loud environments, such as at construction sites, make use of earplugs.
Preventing Swimmer’s Ear
Otitis externa, more commonly known as swimmer’s ear, is an outer ear canal infection which is most often caused by either bacteria or fungus. Other activities, aside from swimming, can cause otitis externa. For example, water can remain in the ears after a shower, although water doesn’t even necessarily have to be involved to cause an infection. Rooting around inside your ear with Q-tips can break down the ear’s natural protection against bacteria and also lead to otitis externa. Here are some tips to reduce your risk of catching swimmer’s ear:
1. Don’t allow water to remain in your ears. Shake out excess water after showering or swimming.
2. If you swim often, use antiseptic ear drops.
3. Wear a swimming cap in the pool.
4. Never swim in dirty or contaminated water.
Dealing with Hearing Loss
There are 2 categories of hearing loss: conductive and sensorineural. Conductive loss deals with abnormal sound transmission in the outer and middle ear and can usually be corrected. Sensorineural hearing loss, on the other hand, is much harder to treat. The causes of conductive loss can be as simple as middle ear infections or blockage caused from earwax buildup. Sensorineural hearing loss, for its part, is caused by nerve damage that results from loud noises, medication side effects, aging, or viral infections.
In some cases, the effects of hearing loss can be minimized through the use of a hearing aid. Modern hearing aids are genuinely high tech, with three primary types being available: in the ear, behind the ear, and in the ear canal. How effective the device is boils down to a few things. First, you must see your doctor so he or she can prescribe the right hearing aid for you. It is also necessary to clearly communicate your needs to your doctor and be certain that you are using the device properly.Lastly, don’t expect miracles; have realistic expectations, which is to say that you can retain some hearing in the future, but it won’t be as good as it once was.