You workout regularly and watch your diet just to stay healthy but shouldn’t that apply to your hearing too? Many people see a loss of hearing as a something that happens naturally due to aging but fail to take it into account how bad habits affect it. The hearing sense is one the most important you have and what you do now does matter if you want to keep it. Everything from eating fast food to refusing to give up the cigarettes to hitting the couch for hours at a time contributes to changes in the hearing related to aging. It’s time to make some positive choices by considering preventative measures that benefit your heart and hearing at the same time.
Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your entire body including your ears. A 2009 study conducted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) determined there is a connection between heart health and the gradual hearing loss associated with aging. They found that heart disease was a factor in hearing loss very late in life and failure to exercise leads to cardiovascular disease.
A 2013 study published in The American Journal of Medicine looked at how body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and physical activity factored into the hearing equation. They were able to conclude that the better fit you are, the better your chance of keeping your hearing. Even the American Journal of Audiology identified a direct link between cardiovascular health and hearing function. With that much proof on hand, it’s clear that sitting on the couch day after day will cost you in many ways, so start a regular workout schedule or, at least, find time to take a walk most days of the week.
There is a reason mom said you are what you eat. There is a certain nutritional aspect to maintaining ear health. Omega 3 fatty acids, for instance, are deemed healthy foods good for the heart but studies show they also help protect you against age-related hearing loss. Look to get some omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish like salmon.
While you are out shopping for fish, make sure to get pick up some greens, too. Spinach, kale and asparagus are all rich in folic acid, an antioxidant that helps to reduce nerve damage including the type that keeps the ears from talking to the brain. Add some magnesium found in bananas and artichokes to your plate and you are eating your way to better ear health.
Start Eating to Prevent Chronic Disease
When it comes to what you eat, the rest of the body matters just as much as your ears. Preventing chronic illnesses like hypertension, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes also protects your hearing. It might surprise you to know the kinds of foods can help fight disease like:
- Wine – Red wine is good for the body, especially the heart, in moderation. Just be sure to keep it to one glass a day and check with your doctor before you start.
- Cocoa – You know that good stuff chocolate is made from, a little each day will improve your brain health without blowing your diet. When you shop, look for dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao.
- Almonds – They make an effective and efficient high-protein snack with lots of crunch to help lower cholesterol levels for better heart and brain health. Stick to just a few each day, though. They add a lot of calories to your diet.
While meal planning, find ways to cut the salt. Excess salt leads to water retention and higher blood pressure.
Of course, don’t ignore the things that you do just for your ears when considering smart health choices. Sound hygiene refers to protecting your ears from the noise that leads to damage. Don’t wear headphones or earbuds to listen to music or talk on the phone. They introduce loud noise directly into the ear canal. By the time it reaches the sensitive mechanisms of the inner ear, it is strong enough to cause problems. If you are going out for the night to a club or to hear a band, wear ear protection to prevent the sound vibrations from causing ear trauma.
Get Quality Sleep
If you need eight hours a night, then make you get them. See a doctor if you think you might sleep apnea, as well. Sleep apnea is often a sign of an underlying problem like will affect the ears like poor circulation or inflammation. Research suggests that those with untreated sleep apnea most likely have hearing problems, especially with low and high-frequency sounds.
Learn to live right and your ears will thank you. If you already think you have hearing problems, now is the time to see your doctor for a professional hearing exam and test.
If you are one of the 25 million people in the U.S. with a medical condition called tinnitus, usually ringing in the ears, then you probably know that it tends to get worse when you are trying to fall asleep, but why? The ringing in one or both ears is not a real noise but a complication of a medical issue like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. Of course, knowing what it is will not explain why you have this ringing, buzzing or swishing noise more often at night.
The truth is more common sense than you might think. To know why your tinnitus increases as you try to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this very common medical problem.
What is Tinnitus?
To say tinnitus is not a real sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most people, that is true. It’s a noise no one else can hear and does not happen of a real sound close to your ear. The individual lying next to you in bed can’t hear it even if it sounds like a tornado to you.
Tinnitus alone is not a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is wrong. It is typically associated with significant hearing loss. For many, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is at risk. Hearing loss tends to be gradual, so they do not notice it until that ringing or buzzing starts. This phantom noise works like a flag to warn you of a change in how you hear.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is one of medical sciences biggest conundrums. Doctors do not have a clear understanding of why it happens, only what it usually means. It is a symptom of a number of medical problems including inner ear damage. The inner ear contains many tiny hair cells designed to move in response to sound waves. Tinnitus often means there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from sending electrical messages to the brain. These electrical messages is how the brain translates sound into something you can clearly comprehend like a car horn or person talking.
The current theory about tinnitus has to do with the silence or a lack of sound. The brain works hard to interpret sound through these messages, but when they don’t come, it is confusing. To compensate, your brain fills that that lack of sound with the ringing or buzzing noise of tinnitus.
The need for feedback from the ears does explain a few things related to tinnitus. For one, it tells you why that sound is a symptom of such a variety of illnesses that affect hearing from a mild ear infection to age-related hearing loss. It also explains why the volume goes up at night for some people.
Why Does Tinnitus Get Worse at Night?
Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear picks up certain sounds all day long even if you do not realize it. The ears hear faint noises like music playing or the TV humming even if there is no comprehension of the sound. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but at night, it all stops.
At bedtime, the world goes silent and that lack of noise creates confusion in the brain in response to it. The brain only knows one thing to do when that happens – create noise even if it’s not real.
In other words, tinnitus gets worse at night because it’s too quiet. Creating sound is the solution for those who can’t sleep because their ears are ringing.
How to Create Noise at Night
If you can believe that ear ringing does get worse at night because there is not enough noise to keep the brain busy, the answer to the problem is clear – make some. For people suffering from tinnitus, all they need do is run a fan in the room. Just the noise of the motor is enough to quiet the ringing.
Manufacturers do make a device designed to help those with tinnitus get to sleep, as well. The white noise machine plays environmental sounds like rain falling or wind blowing to fill that empty space. The soft sounds can soothe the brain without distracting it from the main object – to fall asleep.
Can Anything Else Increase Tinnitus?
It’s important to keep in mind that the lack of sound is only one thing that can cause an upsurge in your tinnitus. It tends to get worse when you are under stress and certain medical problems can lead to a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. If introducing sound into your nighttime routine doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is active, it’s time to see the doctor.
Unilateral hearing loss, or single-sided deafness, is much more widespread than people realize, prominently in children. Because of this, the public sees hearing loss as being binary — either someone has normal hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on each side, but that ignores one particular form of hearing loss completely.
A 1998 study thought that approximately 400,000 children had a unilateral hearing loss due to trauma or disease in the moment. It’s safe to say this amount has increased in that last two decades.
What’s Single-Sided Hearing Loss and What Makes It?
As its name suggests, single-sided hearing loss indicates a reduction in hearing only in one ear.In extreme cases, deep deafness is potential.
Causes of unilateral hearing loss vary. It may be the result of injury, for example, someone standing next to a gun fire on the left might get moderate or profound hearing loss in that ear. A disease can lead to this issue, too, such as:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
Whatever the origin, a person with unilateral hearing needs to adapt to a different method of processing audio.
Management of the Sound
The mind utilizes the ears nearly like a compass. It defines the direction of sound based on which ear registers it first and in the maximum volume.
Together with the single-sided hearing loss, the noise is only going to come in one ear no matter what direction it comes from. In case you have hearing from the left ear, then your head will turn left to search for the noise even if the person speaking is on the right.
Think for a minute what that would be like. The sound would always enter one side regardless of where what direction it comes from. How would you understand where a person speaking to you is standing? Even if the hearing loss isn’t deep, sound management is catchy.
Honing in on Audio
The mind also uses the ears to filter out background sound. It informs one ear, the one nearest to the sound that you want to focus on, to listen for a voice. The other ear manages the background sounds. That is precisely why in a noisy restaurant, you can still focus on the conversation at the dining table.
When you don’t have that tool, the mind becomes confused. It’s unable to filter out background sounds like a fan running, so that’s all you hear.
The mind has a lot happening at any one time but having use of two ears allows it to multitask. That is the reason you can sit and examine your social media sites whilst watching TV or having a conversation. With just one working ear, the brain loses the ability to do one thing while listening. It must prioritize between what you see and what you hear, so you tend to lose out on the dialogue taking place without you while you browse your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Impact
The mind shadow effect describes how certain sounds are unavailable to an individual having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have extended frequencies so they bend enough to wrap around the mind and reach the working ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and don’t survive the trek.
If you are standing beside an individual with a high pitched voice, then you might not understand what they say unless you flip so the good ear is on their side. On the other hand, you may hear somebody having a deep voice just fine no matter what side they’re on because they produce longer sound waves which make it into either ear.
Individuals with just minor hearing loss in only one ear have a tendency to accommodate. They learn fast to turn their head a certain way to hear a friend speak, for instance. For people who struggle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work round that yields their lateral hearing.
Unilateral hearing loss, or single sided deafness, is much more prevalent than people realize, prominently in kids. Age-related hearing loss, which affects many adults at some point, tends to become lateral, to put it simply, it affects both ears to a extent. As a result, the average person sees hearing loss as a black and white — someone has typical hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on both sides, but that ignores one form of hearing loss altogether.
A 1998 study estimated around 400,000 kids had a unilateral hearing loss due to trauma or disease at the time. It is safe to say this number has gone up in that past two decades.
What’s Single-Sided Hearing Loss and What Causes It?
As the name implies, single-sided hearing loss suggests a decrease in hearing only in one ear. The hearing loss may be conductive, sensorineural or mixed. In extreme instances, profound deafness is possible. The nonfunctioning ear is incapable of hearing whatsoever and that person is left with monaural audio quality — their hearing is limited to a side of the body.
Causes of unilateral hearing loss vary. It may be caused by injury, for instance, a person standing next to a gun fire on the left may get moderate or profound hearing loss in that ear. A disease may lead to this issue, as well, such as:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
No matter the cause, an individual with unilateral hearing must adapt to a different method of processing audio.
Management of the Audio
The brain uses the ears nearly like a compass. It defines the direction of sound based on which ear registers it initially and in the maximum volume. When somebody talks to you while positioned on the left, the brain sends a signal to turn in that way.
With the single-sided hearing loss, the noise will only come in one ear no matter what way it comes from. If you have hearing in the left ear, your mind will turn to search for the sound even when the person talking is on the right.
Think for a minute what that would be similar to. The sound would enter 1 side no matter where what direction it comes from. How would you know where an individual talking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss is not profound, sound management is tricky.
Focusing on Sound
The mind also uses the ears to filter out background sound. It tells one ear, the one nearest to the sound that you wish to focus on, to listen to a voice. The other ear manages the background sounds. This is why at a noisy restaurant, so you can still concentrate on the conversation at the table.
When you don’t have that tool, the brain gets confused. It’s not able to filter out background noises like a fan blowing, so that is all you hear.
The Ability to Multitask
The brain has a lot happening at any one time but having use of two ears allows it to multitask. That is why you can sit and read your social media sites whilst watching TV or having a conversation. With just one working ear, the brain loses that ability to do one thing when listening. It has to prioritize between what you hear and what you see, which means you usually lose out on the conversation taking place without you while you navigate your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Impact
The mind shadow effect clarifies how certain sounds are inaccessible to a person having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have extended frequencies so they bend enough to wrap round the head and reach the ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and do not survive the journey.
If you’re standing next to an individual with a high pitched voice, you may not know what they say unless you flip so the working ear is on their side. On the flip side, you might hear someone with a deep voice just fine regardless of what side they’re on because they create longer sound waves that make it to either ear.
People with only minor hearing loss in only one ear have a tendency to accommodate. They learn quickly to turn their head a certain way to listen to a buddy speak, for instance. For those who struggle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work round that returns their lateral hearing to them.
You may think it would be evident, but hearing loss will be gradual, so how does one know they have it? There’s no shooting pain to function as a danger sign. You don’t lose consciousness or make extra trips to the bathroom when it happens, either. It’s safe to say the signs of hearing loss are more subtle than other autoimmune disorders like diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
Even so, there are indications should you know to look for them. It is a matter of paying attention to how you hear and the effect any change could be having on your life. Consider some ways you can identify hearing loss for you or somebody you love.
A Shift in Communication
The impact on socializing offers a number of the most telling indications. As an example, if the first thing from your mouth during most conversations is “what?” That should be a sign you are not understanding words well. Questioning people you talk to repeat what they said is something they’re likely to detect before you do, too, so pay attention to the way folks respond to having conversations with you.
When speaking to a group of two or more individuals, you may have trouble keeping track of things. You’re missing pieces of what everyone says, thus you are not part of the conversation. You can’t ask everyone talking to repeat themselves, either, so you just get lost. As time passes, you avoid group discussions or stand there not understanding what is said, since it’s just too confusing once you do.
The Background Noise Drowns Everything Out
If the only thing you hear these days is background noise, then it is time for a hearing exam. This is a common sign of hearing loss because you are no longer able to filter out sounds like a fan blowing or an air conditioner operating. It gets to the point at which you can not hear what people are saying for you because it becomes lost in the background noise.
The TV Volume Creeps Up and Upward
It is easy to blame the need to flip the TV volume up on that dying box because of a noisy room, but when it occurs all the time, it is probably a sign of gradual hearing loss. When everybody else begins complaining that you have the TV or computer volume too loud, you need to wonder why that is, and, probably, come to terms with the fact that your hearing is not like it was at one time.
You End up Watching Their Lips
Lip reading is a coping skill for missing words. Gradual hearing loss begins with the loss of hard sounds. Words which contain specific letters will be incomplete. Your brain might automatically shift your attention to the individual’s lips to repair the issue. It is likely that you don’t even understand you do it before somebody points it out or unexpectedly acts uncomfortable when speaking to you.
Then There is the Buzzing
You may hear a clicking, ringing, or buzzing or the sound of a breeze in your ears — that is called tinnitus, and it’s a sign of significant hearing loss. These sounds aren’t real, but phantom noises that only you hear. For many people, they are just bothersome, but for others tinnitus is debilitating. If you have that, then you most surely have hearing loss that you will need to address.
Hearing problems are not always obvious to the person suffering from them, but it is to others. Listen to what your family is telling you about your hearing loss. Consider, too, other medical problems that may give rise to the problem like hypertension or medication you take that can damage your ears and find out if age-related hearing loss is a hereditary problem for you.
If you do come to this conclusion, visit your doctor and receive a professional hearing test for confirmation. Hearing loss isn’t a catastrophe, but for many, it does imply it is time to think about hearing aids.
Each new year and every new season brings with it the stuffy nose and itchy eyes that means allergies, but does that also mean you’ll have hearing loss? It might surprise you to know there is a connection for many people. You don’t necessarily associate hearing with the immune system, after all. It is not that simple. Your hearing is a complex sense, one that can be affected by an allergic reaction. So, what should you do if your allergies affect your hearing?
An allergic reaction is part of body’s internal security plan managed by the immune system. It monitors different areas to detect intruders such as an infection. When bacteria gets in, the immune system works to fight it off. It also creates a special tag, known as an antibody, that marks this invader for future reference.
Let’s say a family member exposes you to the flu virus. If you have had the same strain before, an antibody allows the immune system to recognize it and respond. It will release histamine — the ground troops that fight off invaders — and that typically means inflammation of some kind. In the case of the flu, your sinus cavities and mucous membranes might swell in an attempt to trap the virus.
The problem is this system is not perfect. Sometimes innocuous substances like dust or pollen get flagged in error. Once flagged, they are always seen as a threat. This means everytime you come in contact with an allergen — that’s the dust or pollen — there is an immune system response. By definition, an allergy means you are hypersensitive to something that is harmless to most people.
Seasonal Allergies and Hearing Loss
Each year millions of people in this country suffer from seasonal allergies, and they might notice a change in their hearing. Hearing relies on the ability of sound to reach a nerve in the inner ear to be translated into something the brain can understand.
The allergic response almost automatically means swelling and congestion and that can interfere with that process. A change in fluid pressure prevents sound from traveling to the inner ear, for example. You might notice pressure or a sense of fullness in the ears when that happens. The body produces more earwax in response to an allergy, too, creating a buildup that blocks sound.
The Skin and Allergies
Sometimes the allergic response includes a skin reaction like swelling and an itchy rash. The ear has a considerable amount of skin that can be affected. Typically, skin reactions occur on the outer ear, known as the pinna. They can also cause problems inside the ear, though. The ear canal is covered with skin that can swell and itch enough to close the passage and prevent sound waves from moving forward.
Allergies and the Middle Ear
The middle ear is the area most often affected by allergies. This region contains tubes that allow fluid to drain and control the pressure inside the ear. An allergic reaction closes the tubes allowing fluid and pressure to build, and that makes it hard to hear.
How to Recognize Allergy-Related Hearing Loss
If you are prone to allergies, these symptoms will be familiar:
- Itching inside the ear canal
- Chronic ear infections
- Fullness inside the ear
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
When combined with the conductive hearing loss, these are signs of an allergy.
Any time your hearing changes suddenly, though, it is worth considering seeing a doctor, especially if you don’t usually have allergies. Your hearing loss might be the first sign of a chronic medical problem like high blood pressure or diabetes. If allergies are a way of life for you, however, then treating them is probably all it will take to get your hearing back.
Does what eat count when it comes to protecting your hearing? One thing doctors know for sure is that nutrition is critical for just about everything to do with health including your hearing. The truth is the most effective way to safeguard your hearing is to be conscious of noise hazards like the headphones you wear to listen to music or loud environmental sounds you can’t control like a jackhammer or traffic.
If you already protect your ears from loud noises then it’s time to shift your focus to other proactive lifestyle choices like diet and exercise. What foods do you want on your plate for better hearing health?
Get Your Omega On
Omega-3 fatty acids are a winning choice for just about every system including hearing. Researchers from the University of Sydney published a 2010 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that states eating two helpings of oily fish — a common source of omega-3 fatty acids — each week might lower your risk of age-related hearing loss by as much as 42 percent.
There are plenty of good reasons to want this important fatty acid in your diet, though. It’s been connected to the reduction of blood triglycerides, reducing the risk of dementia and better heart health. Now, we can add hearing to the list too.
Fish is the best source of this critical element but not all fish count. Look for wild salmon, tuna or sardines if you want more omega-3 fatty acid.
Folate is a type of folic acid, one that is often given to women expecting a baby to help prevent neural tube defects during gestation. Folic acid is also listed on the World Health Association’s List of Essential Medicines. At least one study indicates that taking folate will reduce the risk of age-related hearing loss by as much as 35 percent.
The recommended daily intake of folate is 400 micrograms, and the food is always the best source. You’ll find folate in those green leafy vegetables, the dark ones, like spinach or kale, along with beans and in black-eyed peas.
Potassium plays an important role in the balancing of specific metabolic processes such as fluid levels and that makes it critical for good hearing, too. The inner ear is where you’ll find the cochlea, a bony labyrinth that is filled with fluid. As sound enters your ear, the fluid vibrates. Those vibrations are what move the hair cells so they send electrical messages the brain can translate into sound.
Clearly, having the right balance of fluid in the inner ear is necessary for effective hearing. In fact, the current theory about conditions that affect what you hear like Meniere’s disease relates directly to this fluid balance. A change in fluid levels might also be a factor in the age-related hearing loss, so add some potatoes, spinach, bananas or yogurt to your daily diet to ensure you get the potassium you need.
Zinc is another one of those minerals that make a difference when it comes to your health, especially in the fight against infection. How much zinc you get matters, though. Too much is has negative consequences. The recommended dosage for zinc is around 11 mg per day for adults.
Just enough zinc each day will help reduce the risk of the ear infections. They can interfere with your hearing and may damage the delicate mechanisms of the ear. Zinc also improves wound healing, including the ones inside the ear canal after an infection.
There is some indication that zinc intake helps those with tinnitus, too. Tinnitus is the ringing that some people hear when there is a change in their hearing. Not everyone hears ringing, though. Some individuals with tinnitus complain of wind blowing or clicking noises in their ears. More evidence is needed to prove that zinc is effective in the treatment of tinnitus, however, but it can’t hurt.
Foods that offer plenty of zinc include beef, nuts, and beans. You can enjoy the occasional sweet treat and get your zinc, too, so get some dark chocolate next time you shop.
Good lifestyle choices like eating a balanced diet and doing plenty of exercises are also the right way to lower the risk of chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Any of those problems will increase your odds of age-related hearing loss. Add the direct benefit eating certain foods has on ear health, why wouldn’t you fuss about what you put on your plate?
Hearing aids cost money, so you might ask, do you really need them? It’s common to put the expense of a medical device before the possible health problems it might prevent. The answer to the question does one need hearing aids to prevent hearing loss is a complicated one, too, because hearing itself is complex. There is a certain use or lose it factor when it comes to your ears. Consider some reasons hearing aids are an important part of maintaining your hearing, and, how not getting them comes with risks.
The Complexity of Hearing
Sound goes into the ears in waves that are amplified as they pass through to the inner ear. Some forms of hearing loss get in the way of the process. For people with this type of hearing problem, the answer is no, hearing aids won’t slow that progression. Hearing aids will improve the transmission of sound but not prevent the initial decline. Damage to the delicate mechanisms of the ears like the hair cells will happen whether you wear hearing aids or not.
Your hearing is about more than just sound levels, though. Another critical factor in effective hearing is how you interpret of distinctive sounds like speech. Voice recognition systems on mobile devices and computers improve with each word you say. In many ways, the human brain does the same thing. After all, newborns don’t understand language right away. The learn words through listening to repetition. The more often they hear a word, the more likely they are to recognize it. That’s also why not having hearing aids matters when it comes to hearing loss.
The Concept of Use It or Lose It
Most forms of hearing loss are gradual, in other words, you start losing some sounds before you even know there is a problem. Hearing loss tends to start with hard letters like S, F or T. As you listen to words, the sound of hard letters drops off. What was once the word stop might now sound more like op or something close to it.
Over time, the nerve that recognizes speech loses its ability to understand the sounds it’s missing. That’s the use it or lose it principle. A baby understands the word momma because it’s repeated so many times. That same baby will lose the appreciation of that word if people stop saying it. After a few months, momma would be just another meaningless noise to figure out.
The point is that sound interpretation suffers without stimulation. That interpretation is done by the auditory cortex in the brain, and, like most things related to brain function, it needs exercise. Brain training exercise is quite popular right now. Their goal is to work the part of the brain responsible for creating short-term memory because keeping it fit helps help fight off dementia. Sound interpretation works the same way.
The Benefit of Hearing Aids
Hearing aids have one role to play — they make sound clearer. Poor quality ones do that by simply making the sound louder. Better quality hearing aids also filter out background noises so that you can identify sounds more efficiently. What this does for your brain is reintroduce it to those elements of speech you’ve been missing and help you relearn them.
The brain benefit goes beyond just improving your ability to understand speech, though. The stress on the brain that comes with hearing loss causes damage to other regions like short-term memory. A study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins found that individuals with even a minor hearing loss had an increased risk of dementia. Those with a significant hearing deficit are five times more likely to develop it.
Health is a critical consideration when determining whether or not to get hearing aids or — probably more so than cost. Although, in theory, hearing aids will not slow the progression of age-related hearing loss, having them is important r at many levels, especially when it comes to brain health and the ability to understand speech.
There are likely to be a few things you don’t understand about earwax. After all, it’s not a normal part of a conversation, right? Like what’s the job of this strange sticky substance and why is it made? Consider eight ever so interesting details about cerumen — that’s earwax for most people — that you didn’t even know were essential to hearing health.
1. Earwax is Not Really Wax
It’s called wax, but it’s not a wax at all. The name comes from the waxy texture. Earwax is made partially of skin cells from the auditory, or ear, the canal. This area contains skin that is always renewing itself. As dead cells drop off, they are pulled in to produce earwax.
Along with the dead skin cells, it also contains secretions from the ceruminous and the sebaceous glands. The ceruminous gland is a small sweat gland that sits just outside the ear canal. The sebaceous glands are located anywhere there is skin to provide the oil that keeps it lubricated.
The exact formula of earwax consists of:
- Fatty acids
They combine with the dead skin cells to create this very necessary substance.
2. Earwax Safeguards Your Ears
It’s role is to protect the skin inside the auditory canal. It takes just a small break in that skin to cause an infection that leads to an earache. The strange texture of the earwax lubricates this skin, as well, and it is a natural antimicrobial, so it stops bacterial infections before they can start.
Earwax is similar to other protective elements on the body like nose hairs or tears. You don’t think much about them, either, but they an important part of preventing infection.
3. There are Different Kinds of Earwax
That’s right, surprisingly not all earwax is the same. It comes in two forms: wet and dry. What kind you have depends on genetics just like eye color. Wet earwax is the dominant gene, so it’s common for most people. Individuals with East Asian descent, from China or Korea, for example, usually have the recessive dry gene as do the Native American Indians. It’s a detail important to anthropologists as they track the migration of different cultures throughout the world.
4. Earwax Cleans the Ears
Yes, that is another essential function of earwax. Think of it as a conveyor belt like you see in the grocery store checkout lane. Dirt, dead skin cells and bacteria get stuck in the earwax to create the belt. When the eardrum beats or the jaw moves, the belt goes towards the opening of the ear canal, taking all that debris with it.
The movement of the jaw is responsible for loosening the wax from the wall of the ear canal so that it can be sent through the ear opening as waste.
5. Too Little Earwax a Bad Thing
Everyone has itchy ears sometimes, but it can be a sign of low levels of earwax possibly due to excessive cleaning. Earwax is natural and doesn’t need much help to clean the canal. There few reasons to try to pull it out of the ear, especially if yours are already itchy.
The itch usually means the skin that covers the auditory canal is dry because there isn’t enough earwax. It acts as a natural lubricant, so removing it will just lead to more itching. Instead, try a drop or two of mineral oil to moisten the dry skin.
6. Too Much Earwax is Bad Too
On the other hand, too much earwax might cause a temporary hearing loss. That is what happens when the wax is pushed back during cleaning with a cotton swab, end of a pencil or whatever else you might stick in your ears. Sound travels as a vibration through the canal to the inner ear. That process is disrupted when there is an earwax blockage.
7. It’s Possible to Clean Earwax Out Safely
It’s not done by shoving a cotton swab in the canal, though. There is a reason mom said not to put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear.
First, if you have diabetes or chronic problems with your ears, let the doctor do the cleaning for you. If you do decide to do it yourself, add a few drops of baby oil to the ear canal to soften built-up earwax and, hopefully, dislodge it. Once the wax is soft, you can use a rubber-bulb syringe to run room temperature water through the ear. When the water is in place, tilt your ear to the side and allow it to drain out.
Dry the outside of your ear with a clean towel. If you are prone to swimmer’s ear or ear infections, a few drops of rubbing alcohol will ensure all the water dries up.
8. Not All Hearing Loss is Due to Earwax
If your hearing doesn’t return once the wax is gone and the ears are clean, see your doctor. A professional ear exam and a hearing test can pinpoint that problem, so you can start to hear again even if it means you need hearing aids.
Will diet play a role in the ringing that comes with tinnitus? Often when a doctor diagnoses tinnitus in a patient, the first step is to call for a professional hearing test. Tinnitus is a symptom that can indicate damage to the delicate hair cells found in the inner ear, which is at the heart of many kinds of hearing loss. Inner ear issues are not the only possible cause of tinnitus, though.
The ringing associated with tinnitus is not a medical condition itself, but a sign of a bigger problem like a significant hearing loss. Tinnitus may also mean there is an expected change in sugar levels in the blood or an increase of the production of insulin, a condition called hyperinsulinemia. Learning how the sugar you eat can change insulin levels may be the best way to turn the ringing off this holiday season.
What Causes Ringing in the Ears?
Tinnitus means a person hears phantom noises, typically ringing but patients also complain of:
The noise isn’t really there, but it does sound real.
There are two types of tinnitus:
- Subjective — Meaning a sound only you can hear
- Objective — A sound caused by a faulty blood vessel. The doctor may also hear this noise during an examination.
The most common of these two forms of tinnitus is subjective. It is a condition that affects approximately 40 million people in the U.S.. For 10 million people with tinnitus, the noise is loud enough to interfere with their daily activities. Most importantly, severe tinnitus can get in the way of a good night’s sleep and that affects overall health.
What is Hyperinsulinemia?
Hyperinsulinemia is the medical name for too much insulin in the blood. Insulin works a lot like a key that opens the membranes around cells to allow sugar to enter.
All cells utilize sugar (glucose) for energy. When there is too much sugar inside the cell membrane, it causes damage. This is why membranes are locked. They only open when the body determines there are high levels of sugar in the blood. To combat the high blood sugar, it produces insulin to unlock the cell membranes and pull sugar inside. The cells then metabolize the sugar to create fuel.
So, what happens to the blood when a person eats too many sweet treats? The blood sugar level rises and insulin is released in response. This is critical because too much blood sugar is harmful to tissue, specifically the veins, arteries and nerves. This is the reason individuals diagnosed with diabetes tend to have problems with the circulation in the legs and feet and don’t heal well.
In order to level out blood sugar after eating something sweet in excess, the body produces more insulin and dumps it into the blood causing hyperinsulinemia, or higher than normal blood insulin levels. It’s not just chocolate and other sweets that increase blood sugar, either. Complex carbohydrates like muffins and bread have the same effect.
Hyperinsulinemia can also occur due to a metabolic disorder that results from the insulin resistance often associated with type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is like changing the locks on the cell membranes. The insulin doesn’t work to open them to sugar or it takes much more of the hormone to get the job done.
Hyperinsulinemia is a vicious cycle. The pancreas attempts to make more insulin as it tries to regulate the level of sugar in the blood. When the cell membranes fail to open, sugar has nowhere to go and the levels keep rising. The higher the blood sugar, the more insulin the body makes.
Hyperinsulinemia and Tinnitus: What is the Connection?
At least one 2004 study found that somewhere between 84 to 92 percent of people with tinnitus have hyperinsulinemia, too. It may be related to the development of Meniere’s disease — a condition caused by changes in inner ear fluid pressure.
What medical science does know is that the inner ear needs a constant supply of oxygen and glucose to work properly. When those levels fluctuate, ringing in the ears gets worse. Over time, untreated high blood sugar levels will damage the nerve that controls how the brain interprets sound and interfere with the blood supply to the inner ear but even a little extra sugar changes the electrolyte balance of the fluid in the inner ear.
What Does This Mean For People Who Love Those Holiday Cookies?
Certainly, modern consumers understand that the simple sugars found in cookies and candy not a good for the body. Now, they add hearing problems and tinnitus to the list of reasons to manage sugar intake. For most people, the tinnitus that might come from the occasional sweet treat is harmless. If you do overindulge, there might be a funny noise in your ears. If you already suffer from tinnitus, though, the noise will get much worse.
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