Our ears may be our most abused body part. We pierce them, subject them to deafening noise, force cotton swabs inside them, and burn them with ear candling. In spite of supplying us with one of our most significant senses, we rarely give our ears, or our hearing, much appreciation or consideration.
That is, right until there are problems. After that, we comprehend just how crucial healthy hearing really is—and how we should have practiced proper ear care sooner. The secret is to comprehend this before the injury is done.
If you want to avoid issues and safeguard your hearing, stay away from these 4 dangerous practices.
1. Ear Candling
Ear candling is a method of eliminating earwax, and additionally, as one researcher put it, “the triumph of ignorance over science.”
Here’s how ear candling is carried out. One end of a narrow tube made 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 draws earwax up into the tube.
Except that it doesn’t, for two reasons.
First, the ear candle doesn’t generate negative pressure. As expressed by Lisa M.L. Dryer, MD, earwax is sticky, so even if negative pressure was created, the pressure needed to suck up earwax would rupture the eardrum.
Second, although the wax and ash resemble earwax, no earwax is actually found within the ear candle following the procedure. Clinical psychologist Philip Kaushall tested this by burning some ear candles the traditional way and burning other candles without placing them into the ear. The residue was exactly the same for both groups.
Ear candling is also harmful and is strongly 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 simply presses the earwax against the eardrum, creating an impaction and potentially a ruptured eardrum and hearing loss.
Your earwax is made up of beneficial antibacterial and lubricating properties, and is organically eliminated by the regular movements of the jaw (from speaking and chewing). All that’s required from you is standard showering, or, if you do have problems with excessive earwax, a professional cleaning from your hearing professional.
But don’t take our word for it: just look at the back of the package of any box of cotton swabs. You’ll find 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 deal with the loud sounds we’ve learned how to produce. In fact, any sound louder than 85 decibels has the potential to produce irreversible hearing loss.
How loud is 85 decibels?
An everyday conversation registers at about 60, while a rock concert registers at over 100. But here’s the thing about the decibel scale: it’s logarithmic, not linear. That means the jump from 60 to 100 does not make the rock concert twice as loud, it makes it about 16 times as loud!
Similarly, many earbuds can create a similar output of 100 decibels or greater—all from inside the ear canal. It’s no real surprise then that this can create irreparable harm.
If you would like to preserve your hearing, ensure that you wear earplugs to live shows (and while at work if needed) and maintain 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. Overlooking the signs of hearing loss
And finally, we have the unsettling fact that people tend to wait almost ten years from the beginning of symptoms before searching for help for their hearing loss.
That indicates two things: 1) people needlessly suffer the consequences of hearing loss for 10 years, and 2) they render their hearing loss much harder to treat.
It’s true that hearing aids are not perfect, but it’s also true that with modern technology, hearing aids are extraordinarily effective. The amount of hearing you get back will be based on on the seriousness of your hearing loss, and given that hearing loss tends to become more serious over time, it’s best to get tested and treated the moment you notice any symptoms.