In a world that’s currently full of video conferences, phone calls, masks, and plastic barriers, our ability to hear each other is more important than ever. We can’t always rely on lip-reading or body language to help us out, so our ears have become even more central to our ability to communicate with each other.
Our ears serve two (yes, two) very important functions: they allow us to hear, and they maintain our balance. Either function alone warrants our attention, yet ears are frequently overlooked. When we can take action to maintain our ability to hear, it’s worth considering how much you do to protect your ears. How often do you think about the proper way to care for your ears? How often do you protect them from potentially damaging noises? It’s not too late to give your ears the care they deserve.
It’s important to understand the correct way to clean your ears (hint: it doesn’t involve sticking cotton in them!), when it’s necessary to block out harmful sounds, and how to care for hearing aids to ensure you’re hearing as clearly as possible.
Ear care 101: the basics of ear cleaning
You wash your hands, brush your teeth, and shampoo your hair, but do you clean your ears? While your ears generally take pretty good care of themselves, it’s still important to know how to clean them correctly and carefully to prevent injury. While earwax is necessary for protecting the sensitive skin within your ears, there are times when it can get a little irritating and require some attention.
If you’re experiencing uncomfortable or excessive earwax build-up, the first thing to know is that you should never stick small, pointy objects (including Q-tips) into your ears to clean them out. Anything that can reach into your ear canal could hurt your eardrum and cause more problems than it solves.
Even if you avoid contact with your eardrum, pushing ear wax around with something like a Q-tip can be counterproductive anyway. Oftentimes, what you’re doing is packing earwax deeper into the medial canal of your ear, which makes it harder for your ear to clear it out on its own. Over time, this can lead to a more significant buildup known as cerumen impaction, which can have a negative effect on your hearing and likely requires professional removal.
So, what can you do if the earwax is bothering you? You can try a damp washcloth, making sure to stick to the outside of your ear canal (rather than pushing the washcloth inside your ear). You can also soften the wax with an over-the-counter wax removal product, such as the Ezy Dose® Deluxe Ear Cleanser, which features a tri-stream tip that safely directs fluid (warm water or saline solution) to ear canal walls and a flared design to protect your ear drum by preventing you from inserting the tip too far into your ear. Always be sure to gently dab your outer ear dry with a towel to prevent infection from sitting water in your ears.
While keeping excess wax from building up inside your ears is one way to prevent temporary issues with your hearing, protecting your ears from loud noises is even more important and can save you from more permanent damage.
Protecting your hearing
Your ears are as delicate and vulnerable as they are important to your ability to hear. It doesn’t take much to cause irreparable damage, but it’s also relatively simple to protect your hearing.
As we’ve discussed before, hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noises – Noise-Induced Hearing Loss – affects about 40 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69. About half of those cases come from noise people encounter in their day-to-day lives, rather than from working with industrial machinery. In fact, over time, exposure sounds at the decibel range for a washing machine or dishwasher can start to hurt your hearing.
Common culprits of hearing damage in your everyday life include:
- Gas-powered lawn mowers, which can damage hearing after two hours.
- A motorcycle, which can damage hearing after 50 minutes.
- Loud sporting events (like a football game), which can damage hearing after only 15 minutes.
- Loud radios, nightclubs, or concerts, which can damage hearing in as little as five minutes.
Using ear plugs when you’re going to be around loud noises is a quick and easy way to protect yourself against potentially permanent damage. Check out our previous blog post for a breakdown of different ear plugs based on noise reduction levels, materials, shapes/sizes, and function.
Caring for your hearing aids
If you have hearing aids, you have one additional consideration when it comes to caring for your ears. In addition to keeping your ears clean and protecting your hearing, you have a device to keep clean and working at optimal levels. Regularly caring for the shell, microphone, and receiver of your hearing aids can keep it working correctly and prevent the need for repairs.
Professionals recommend that when you take your hearing aids out at night, you first wipe them down to remove excess moisture. Then remove excess earwax from the part of the hearing aid that goes into the ear canal. It’s also a good idea to open the battery door to further air out the hearing aids and to prolong battery life.
The Ezy Dose Hearing Aid Cleaner Audio Pro is a simple solution that is ergonomic and easy to hold, works with all types of hearing aids, and contains five tools to thoroughly and regularly clean your hearing aid: tube and vent cleaner, cleaning brush, wax removal pick, battery door opener, and battery replacement magnet.
To help prolong the life of your hearing aid and improve sound quality, make sure to remove all residual moisture from the hearing aid on a regular basis. Using the Ezy Dose Dri-Eze Hearing Aid Dehumidifier each night can keep your hearing aid in peak form longer.
Your ears are central to how you experience the world – especially right now. Take good care of them by keeping them clean and protecting them against damaging noise. You’ll be glad you did.
WebMD: How to Clean Your Ears
VeryWell Health: The Dangers of Using Q-Tips for Earwax
Cleveland Clinic: Ear Care Tips
American Family Physician: Cerumen Impaction
WebMD: How to Get Water Out of Your Ears
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Too Loud! For Too Long!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: What Noises Cause Hearing Loss
Johns Hopkins Health: Caring for Your Hearing Aid
VeryWell Health: Hearing Aid Care and Maintenance