Man lying down receiving ear candling treatment

Our ears may 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 providing us with one of our most critical senses, we rarely give our ears, or our hearing, much appreciation or thought.

That is, up until there are problems. After that, we understand just how important healthy hearing really is—and how we ought to have figured out proper ear care sooner. The trick is to recognize this before the injury is done.

If you want to avoid issues and protect your hearing, avoid these 4 unsafe practices.

1. Ear Candling

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

Here’s how ear candling is conducted. One end of a slim tube composed of cotton and beeswax is placed into the ear. The other end is set on fire, which purportedly creates a vacuum of negative pressure that draws earwax up into the tube.

Except that it does not, for two reasons.

First, the ear candle doesn’t create negative pressure. As stated by Lisa M.L. Dryer, MD, earwax is sticky, so even if negative pressure was created, the pressure needed 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 customary way and burning other candles without placing them into the ear. The residue was exactly the same for both groups.

Ear candling is also harmful and is strongly opposed by both the FDA and the American Academy of Otolaryngology (physicians specializing in the ear, nose, and throat), if you require any additional reasons not to do it.

2. Employing cotton swabs to clean your ears

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

Your earwax consists of advantageous antibacterial and lubricating properties, and is organically eliminated by the normal movements of the jaw (from talking and chewing). All that’s required from you is standard showering, or, if you do have problems with excessive earwax, a professional cleaning from your hearing specialist.

But don’t take our word for it: just look at the back of the package of any pack of cotton swabs. You’ll find a warning from the manufacturers themselves advising you to not enter the ear canal with their product.

3. Listening to excessively loud music

Our ears are just not equipped to deal with the loud sounds we’ve learned how to create. In fact, any sound louder than 85 decibels has the potential to produce irreversible hearing loss.

How loud is 85 decibels?

An ordinary 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. Which means the jump from 60 to 100 decibels does not make the rock concert twice as loud, it makes it about 16 times as loud!

In the same way, many earbuds can achieve a similar output of 100 decibels or greater—all from within the ear canal. It’s no surprise then that this can create permanent injury.

If you want to preserve your hearing, ensure that you wear earplugs to live shows (and while at work if needed) 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 premature hearing loss is not much cooler.

4. Overlooking the signs of hearing loss

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

That means two things: 1) people unnecessarily experience the negative effects of hearing loss for ten years, and 2) they render their hearing loss a great deal harder to treat.

It’s true that hearing aids are not perfect, but it’s also true that with modern technology, hearing aids are remarkably effective. The amount of hearing you get back will depend on the seriousness of your hearing loss, and seeing that hearing loss has a tendency to get worse over the years, it’s best to get tested and treated the moment you notice any symptoms.

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