A good daily ear care routine is as important as brushing and flossing your teeth daily.
But it’s not just a matter of cleaning your ears. Maintaining healthy ears includes monitoring and treating any ailments or illnesses involving the ears, protecting yourself from workplace-related noise, and physically protecting your ears from damage.
Cleaning Your Ears
First, wipe the outer ear with a washcloth or tissue. Do not use Q-tips or insert large or sharp objects such as pins into your ear canal to try and scrape out earwax. According to the Cleveland Clinic, such objects could damage the eardrum. Don’t worry much about earwax unless it is excessive or unsightly. Earwax is the ear’s mechanism for self-cleaning.
If you have an earwax buildup that prevents you from hearing properly and you are unable to clear it out yourself, make an appointment with your doctor to remove it professionally.
Prevent and Treat Illness and Infection
You can lower the risk of developing an ear infection by monitoring your health. Treat upper respiratory infections promptly as they can affect your ears and hearing.
If you have sudden hearing loss, experience constant noise or tinnitus in your ears, or have drainage from the ears, make an appointment to see an ear doctor as soon as possible.
Keep in mind that some prescription medications can adversely affect your hearing. Take medications only as directed, and tell your doctor or audiologist if you experience unusual balance problems you think may be hearing-related.
Protect Your Ears From Harmful Noise
Whether at home or at work, always wear hearing protection if you are exposed to loud noises. This includes workplace noise such as sandblasting, as well as noise from lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and other power tools. Noisy work environments invite the need for hearing protection, often required to be provided by your employer by law.
If your employer is not giving you the protection you feel you need, check with an audiologist about hearing protection. They will tell you what kind you will need according to the level and duration of your noise exposure.
Listening to music while using power tools is dangerous to your hearing and should be avoided. Avoid playing music at high levels. If you go nightclubbing or attend concerts make sure you wear earplugs, especially if you are close to the speaker system.
Keep all vehicle sound systems at reasonable volumes. This will help prevent hearing damage while driving and also allow you to hear and properly yield to emergency vehicles.
Protect Your Ears From Physical Damage
Always wear a helmet when you ride your bicycle, motorcycle, when your rollerblade, or participate in other activities that put you at greater risk for ear and head injury.
If you scuba dive, ask your instructor about proper techniques to prevent potentially damaging changes in pressure inside your ears while underwater.
When flying for work or pleasure, swallow and yawn frequently, especially when the plane is taking off and landing, in order to equalize the pressure in your ears. If you have an upper respiratory problem such as a sinus infection or cold, take a decongestant a few hours before ascending.
If you notice bumps or scaly areas on the exterior of your ears, consult a doctor as soon as possible.
Learn the Warning Signs of Hearing Loss
Have your ears and hearing checked regularly by your primary care physician. If you start to notice signs of hearing loss, have your hearing monitored by a qualified audiologist. You can play a role in prevention by learning the signs of hearing loss so you can start treatment sooner. They are:
- Experiencing difficulty hearing during conversations.
- Finding yourself having to repeat what others say.
- Misunderstanding others at work or at home.
- Difficulty with using the telephone.
- Finding yourself turning up the volume of your music devices and television.
- Noticing that it seems like people are mumbling or have something in their mouth when they talk.
- Having to strain to hear nature sounds such as birds and rain.
- Often giving up on getting the context of conversations, and instead smile or nod.
- Avoiding social situations because it’s hard for you to hear conversations.
- Stopping going to concerts or nightclubs because it’s not fun anymore.
- Finding yourself having to look directly at people’s mouths to read their lips.
- Difficulty hearing voicemails left on your phone.
- Having to strain to keep up with conversations, especially in groups.
- Unusual and unwanted noise or ringing in your ears or head.
As you get older, hearing loss may be inevitable. It’s never too early to start monitoring yourself and reaching out for help if you sense your hearing is starting to fade. You can enjoy good ear and hearing health if you are proactive and disciplined.
Make sure to clean your ears properly, keep your eye on hearing or related issues that could eventually worsen, avoid physical damage to your ears and head, and learn about the warning signs of hearing loss.
Follow these guidelines and you are more likely to live more comfortably with your hearing.
About the Author:
Dr. Pauline Dinnauer, AuD is the VP of Audiological Care at Connect Hearing, which provides industry-leading hearing loss, hearing testing and hearing aid consultation across the US.