Our ears might possibly be our most mistreated body part. We pierce them, subject them to deafening noise, shove cotton swabs inside them, and burn them with ear candling. In spite of providing us with one of our most critical senses, we never give our ears, or our hearing, much gratitude or consideration.
That is, until there are problems. After that, we recognize just how crucial healthy hearing really is—and how we should have practiced proper ear care sooner. The secret is to recognize this before the damage is done.
If you desire to avoid issues and protect your hearing, avoid these 4 hazardous practices.
1. Ear Candling
Ear candling is a technique of removing earwax, and also, as one researcher put it, “the triumph of ignorance over science.”
Here’s how ear candling is done. One end of a thin tube composed of cotton and beeswax is placed into the ear. The other end is set on fire, which allegedly creates a vacuum of negative pressure that draws earwax up into the tube.
Except that it doesn’t, for two reasons.
First of all, 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 called for to suck up earwax would rupture the eardrum.
Second, although the wax and ash resemble earwax, no earwax is actually discovered within the ear candle after the procedure. Clinical psychologist Philip Kaushall investigated this by burning some ear candles the traditional 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 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. Employing cotton swabs to clean your ears
We’ve written about this in other articles, but inserting any foreign object into your ear only drives the earwax against the eardrum, generating an impaction and possibly a ruptured eardrum and hearing loss.
Your earwax is made up of beneficial antibacterial and lubricating properties, and is naturally removed by the normal movements of the jaw (from speaking and chewing). All that’s needed from you is normal showering, or, if you do have issues with excess earwax, a professional cleaning from your hearing consultant.
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 notice a warning from the producers themselves advising you to not enter the ear canal with their product.
3. Listening to excessively loud music
Our ears are just not equipped to manage the loud sounds we’ve figured out how to produce. In fact, any sound louder than 85 decibels has the potential to create permanent hearing loss.
How loud is 85 decibels?
A regular 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. That means the leap 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 produce a similar output of 100 decibels or greater—all from inside of the ear canal. It’s no real surprise then that this can produce irreparable injury.
If you want to conserve your hearing, make sure to wear earplugs to concerts (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 premature hearing loss is not much cooler.
4. Dismissing the signs of hearing loss
Finally, we have the troubling fact that individuals commonly wait nearly a decade from the start of symptoms before seeking help for their hearing loss.
That indicates two things: 1) people unnecessarily experience the consequences of hearing loss for 10 years, and 2) they make their hearing loss a great deal 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 amount of hearing you get back will be based on on the degree of your hearing loss, and seeing that hearing loss has a tendency to get worse as time passes, it’s best to get tested and treated as soon as you notice any symptoms.