You use an alarm to wake up each morning, blast tunes on your commute to the office, and field calls between queries from your coworkers, but when was the last time you gave any thought to your ears, or more specifically, your hearing?
The ears can seem pretty low maintenance compared to other body parts, unless you suffer from hearing loss or frequent earaches. However, we sometimes take our hearing for granted. Here are six habits that can gradually lead to hearing loss…
1. Ignoring Hearing Changes
As mentioned, many of us take our hearing for granted. Sadly, most hearing loss is permanent, meaning once it’s gone, it’s not coming back without the use of hearing aids. So don’t delay seeing your doctor if you notice a persistent changes to your hearing (i.e., ear pain, muffling, ringing ears, or asking others to speak up).
If you experience ear pain, it might indicate another health issue (i.e., an ear infection, oral issues, jaw issues, nerve damage, etc.) that can present as pain in the ear area.
2. Get Your Finger Outta There!
I know, allergy season is raging in many parts of North America, and with it comes itchy ears that you just wanna scratch the heck out of. However, tempting a good finger scratch to the inner ear canal may seem, putting your finger in there can cause some major damage.
According to Clear Ear, a Stanford University spin off, scratching you inner ear can force wax back into your inner ear, cause a nail laceration, and even lead to an infection (remember finger nails contain a lot of nasty microscopic bacteria).
3. Ditch the Q-Tips
According to Brett Comer, MD, assistant professor of otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat specialist) at the University of Kentucky, it isn’t necessary to clean out your ears. The ears are self-cleaning and any wax buildup in the ear canal is there for a reason—to lubricate and protect the ear from infection.
So you may want to rethink your weekly ritual of cleaning your inner ears with cotton-tipped swabs. Dr. Comer explains, “[Swabbing the inner ear] can open up small cuts or lacerations…force wax deeper into the ear [causing] plugs and hearing trouble…or perforate your eardrum.”
4. Turn Down the Tunes
Statistics taken from the National Institute on Deafness show that approximately 26-million American adults, ranging in age from 20- to 69-years old, experience some level of hearing damage because of loud noise. Researchers speculate that much of this hearing loss is accumulated by blasting your favorite tunes while listening with ear buds or headphones.
Although ear buds may be cooler or more convenient to carry to the gym, further research from the Indian Journal of Otology recommends headphones (worn over the ears) versus ear buds (inserted into the ears) because the potential for hearing damage is less.
5. DIY Ear Piercing
I admit, when I was 12 my brother pierced my ear with an ice cube and a sewing needle. I learned my lesson, quite painfully, after I ended up with a nasty infection.
So if you’re eager for some ear bling, forgo the ice cube and needle and visit a professional body piercer instead. That way you’ll be treated by a certified professional with sterilized equipment.
6. Ear Candling
A procedure known as ear candling is reported to expel excess ear way. However, researchers from England’s Cambridge University say the effects of this treatment is somewhat controversial for good reason.
Furthermore, otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat specialists) at New York’s SUNY Downstate Medical Center claim that little evidence exists that the treatment work, and placing a lit candle so close to your ear canal could potentially cause a burn or perforate the eardrum.