Ear is an important organ that helps in listening to the world. We subject our ears to loud sounds–loud music, power tools, lawn mowers, air travel and other types of noise pollution without using ear protection. Hearing loss can happen to anybody at anytime of our life stages. Precautions need to be taken to protect the hearing and ear as ear is a sensory organ that help us to communicate to the world. Do you know – apart from hearing, the another important task that ears perform for us is the semicircular canals in the inner ear are part of our balance system. Providing balance, when moving or stationary, is a central function of the ear.
Warning signs of hearing loss:
- Difficulty hearing conversations, especially in the presence of background noise
- Frequently asking others to repeat what they have said
- Misunderstanding what other people say and answering inappropriately
- Difficulty hearing on the telephone
- Requiring the television or radio volume to be louder than others in the room prefer
- Feeling that people are mumbling or have marbles in their mouth when they talk
- Difficulty hearing environmental sounds, such as birds chirping
- Agreeing, nodding your head, or smiling during conversations when you are not sure what has been said
- Withdrawing from conversations and social situations because it is too difficult to hear
- Reading lips so you can try to follow what people are saying
- Straining to hear or keep up with conversations
- Noise within your ears or head, called tinnitus, which is not caused by an external sound source.
- Reduce the risk of ear infections by treating upper respiratory (ears, nose, throat) infections promptly.
- If you experience sudden hearing loss or have constant noise in your ears or head, see an ear doctor promptly.
- Drainage from the ear is not normal and usually suggests infection. See your doctor as soon as possible.
- Some medications can affect hearing. Take medications only as directed, and consult your doctor if you experience unusual hearing, balance problems, or ringing in the ears.
- Stress and anxiety have been linked to both temporary and permanent tinnitus.
- At home or work, wear hearing protection during exposure to loud levels of noise. This includes mowing the lawn, leaf blowing or using power tools.
- When using stereos and home theater systems, avoid high volume levels. If you think it is too loud, it probably is.
- Ear buds, such as those that come with an IPOD, smart phones or MP3 player, do not protect your hearing. Also, listening to music while using power tools is dangerous to your hearing and should be avoided.
- Wear earplugs at rock concerts, nightclubs and motor sporting events.
- Keep automobile sound systems at sensible volumes. This can help you avoid hearing damage and allow you to hear and yield to emergency vehicles.
General care of ears:
- Have your ears checked regularly by your primary care physician.
- If your family has a history of hearing loss with age, then have your hearing checked by an audiologist.
- If you notice unusual bumps or scaly areas on the exterior ear, consult your physician.
- Clean your ears with extra care. Wipe the outer ear with a washcloth or tissue. Do not use Q-tips, bobby pins or sharp pointed objects to clean your ears. These objects may injure the ear canal or eardrum.
- Earwax is the ear’s mechanism for self cleaning. If you have a build-up of wax that is blocking your hearing, see your doctor to have it removed.
- If you experience itching or pain in your ears, consult with your primary care physician to determine the appropriate treatment and to determine if you need to see a specialist.
- If you have pierced ears, clean your earrings and earlobes regularly with rubbing alcohol.
- In case water is trapped in the ears follow these steps:
A great way to prevent water from being trapped in the ear is to make your own ear drops at home using a mixture of half-rubbing alcohol and half vinegar. The American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery supports the use of this preventative approach and states that this mixture will help evaporate excess water and keep the ears dry. When using the ear drops please follow these instructions:
- Tilt your head and place five to six drops of the mixture into the ear.
- Pull downward on your earlobe and open and close your jaw; this will help the drops to move further the ear canal.
- Hold your head in the tilted position for at least 30 seconds.
- Turn your head over and allow the drops to pour out of the ear. Make sure to have a towel or tissue on hand.
- Check to see if the ear is still plugged. If so, repeat these steps
- Always wear a helmet when you bike, ski, and roller blade or in any other activity that puts you at risk for head and ear injuries.
- If you scuba dive, learn and practice proper underwater techniques to avoid potentially damaging changes in pressure inside your ears.
- Earplugs with special filters can be purchased to help equalize air pressure in ears during air travel.
- When flying in an airplane, swallow and yawn frequently when the plane is ascending and descending to equalize pressure in your ears.
- During winter and cold breeze tie a scarf around your neck and ear. Wear a cap to protect ears from cold air and breeze.