Keeping Ears Healthy
How to keep your ears healthy
Ears clean themselves automatically. Your ear canal is lined with skin. New skin cells grow from the centre of your eardrum outwards. Dead skin cells move along the ear canal forming a glacier like protective layer called keratin. Fresh drops of wax spread over the ear canal, making the layer waterproof, naturally antibacterial and anti-fungal. Wax is made only in the outer ear canal. It forms a mound that keeps out water drops, insects and dust.
The wax dissolves the dead skin, creating what we all know as ear wax – a mixture of wax, dead skin and hairs. It takes six months for the skin cells that are made today to move to the outside edge of the ear – automatic cleaning! Just like a conveyor belt.
How should you clean ears?
- Wax should be wiped away each day. Wipe only from the very outside edge of the ear canal opening.
- Try not to let shower water, soap or shampoo enter your ear canal. A helpful idea is to lift your chin up when rinsing your head.
- Do NOT insert any object into your ear to clean your ear canal. If any object is inserted into the ear, the wax, dead skin and debris gets pushed back into the ear canal. This may create a blockage or become a home for an ear infection.
How should you itch ears?
Press your fingers onto your ear and rub it, moving the outer ear to get relief.
How should you dry ears?
The best way to dry your ears is to use air! Flap air into your ear canal with your hand, a piece of cardboard or use a hair dryer on warm.
What if you wear hearing aids or ear plugs each day?
- Putting anything into your ear stops the normal cleaning glacier.
- Check for wax every 6 months, especially before swimming or flying.
What if you wear ear muffs all day?
- Ear muffs make ear canals warm and moist, perfect for infections to grow.
- Remove muffs often, flap air into the air to dry.
How can you preserve your hearing?
- If your hearing suddenly changes, see an ear nurse or doctor urgently.
- Loud noise kills hearing cells. Avoid loud noise and turn down the volume when listening to music and tv.
- Always wear earplugs or ear muffs when working in noisy environments.
- Always wear ear plugs or ear muffs when mowing the lawn, using power tools, shooting a gun.
- Noise is too loud if you cannot hear a normal speaking voice 1 metre away.
- Signs of noise damage are ringing ears or dull hearing after being in loud noise.
- Early signs of hearing loss: other people mumble their words, difficulty clearly hearing normal conversation with background noise.
What else keeps ears healthy?
- Regular nose blowing keeps the passages clean helping to reduce infections.
- Breathe through your nose, not your mouth.
- Ears need to be kept empty and dry.
- Always take medicine as prescribed (e.g. antibiotic ear drops are usually taken for seven days).
What else do I need to know about ears?
- Infected ears need a swab to be sent to the lab to find out exactly what the infection is.
- If you put anything into your ears you should get them checked every 6 months.
- Anything inserted into the ear canal can create problems so do not insert foreign objects inside your ears.
- TOLBECS does not recommend wax dissolving eardrops as they often make the problem worse, microsuction is the preferred safe removal method.
- Signs of ear canal infection include: itchiness, pain, swelling, discharge, a blocked feeling – infected ears need a swab to identify the type of infection to ensure the correct treatment
- if your ears hurt during diving or snorkeling STOP
- avoid diving or flying in unpressurised aeroplanes if you cannot pop your ears
Danger signs for Ears, Noses and Throats:
- foul smelling discharge
- one sided symptoms
- hoarse voice for 3 weeks
- lump in throat
- unresolving middle ear effusion in adults