Ear Care Tips
Your ears need special care. Cleaning is important, but so is safety from noise and injury. Some medications and illnesses can affect your hearing. General care tips include having regular check-ups and knowing signs of hearing loss.
Cleaning your ears
- Clean your ears with extra care. Wipe the outer ear with a washcloth or tissue. Do not put anything into your ear smaller than your elbow. 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.
Illness and medications
- Reduce the risk of ear infections by treating upper respiratory (ears, nose, throat) infections promptly.
- Some illnesses and medical conditions can affect your hearing. 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.
- 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. By law, a noisy work environment requires use of hearing protection. Hunting shops and some garden centers carry ear-protecting headgear.
- Ear buds, such as those that come with an iPod ® 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.
- When using stereos and home theater systems, avoid high volume levels. If you think it is too loud, it probably is.
- When using personal sound systems, the volume should be at a comfortable level. If someone else can hear what you are listening to, the volume is too high. Remove the headphones from time to time to give your ears a rest.
- 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.
- 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.
- When flying in an airplane, swallow and yawn frequently when the plane is ascending and descending to equalize pressure in your ears. If you have an upper respiratory problem such as a cold or sinus infection, take a decongestant a few hours before descending, or use a decongestant spray just prior to descent and on landing.
- Earplugs with special filters can be purchased to help equalize air pressure in ears during air travel.
- Have your ears checked regularly by your primary care physician. Have your hearing checked by an audiologist if you or anyone else questions whether your hearing is normal. Consult an ear physician as necessary.
- When outdoors in sunny weather, remember to use a sunscreen on your ears.
- If you notice unusual bumps or scaly areas on the exterior ear, consult your physician.
- See an ear doctor immediately if you injure your ears, experience ear pain, or notice changes in your ears or hearing.
- Know the 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