4 Things You Should Never Do to Your Ears

Man lying down receiving ear candling treatment

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 supplying us with one of our most essential senses, we never give our ears, or our hearing, much appreciation or thought.

That is, right until there are problems. Then, we understand just how important healthy hearing really is—and how we should have figured out proper ear care earlier. The secret is to comprehend this before the harm is done.

If you desire to avoid issues and safeguard your hearing, avoid these 4 hazardous practices.

1. Ear Candling

Ear candling is a technique of removing earwax, and additionally, as one researcher put it, “the triumph of ignorance over science.”

Here’s how ear candling is done. One end of a narrow tube composed of cotton and beeswax is inserted 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 does not, for two reasons.

First of all, the ear candle doesn’t create negative pressure. As explained 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 end up rupturing the eardrum.

Second, although the wax and ash resemble earwax, no earwax is actually discovered within the ear candle following the treatment. Clinical psychologist Philip Kaushall tested this by burning some ear candles the conventional way and burning other candles without placing them into the ear. The residue was exactly the same for both groups.

Ear candling is also risky 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. Using cotton swabs to clean your ears

We’ve written about this in other posts, but inserting any foreign object into your ear only presses the earwax against the eardrum, creating an impaction and potentially a ruptured eardrum and hearing loss.

Your earwax consists of beneficial antibacterial and lubricating properties, and is organically removed by the normal motions of the jaw (from talking 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 take a look at the back of the packaging of any pack 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 exceedingly loud music

Our ears are simply 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 irreversible 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. This 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 produce a similar output of 100 decibels or higher—all from within the ear canal. It’s no great surprise then that this can produce irreparable injury.

If you would like to conserve your hearing, make sure to wear earplugs to concerts (and on-the-job if necessary) 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 untimely hearing loss is not much cooler.

4. Disregarding the signs of hearing loss

Finally, we have the distressing fact that individuals tend to wait almost 10 years from the beginning of symptoms before searching for help for their hearing loss.

That means two things: 1) people unnecessarily suffer the negative effects of hearing loss for 10 years, and 2) they make their hearing loss much harder to treat.

It’s true that hearing aids are not perfect, but it’s also true that with today’s technology, hearing aids are extraordinarily effective. The level of hearing you get back will depend on the seriousness of your hearing loss, and since hearing loss tends to get more serious as time passes, it’s best to get tested and treated the moment you notice any symptoms.

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