For April we are focusing on Spring Cleaning and providing tips and tricks to keep your ears clean and healthy. Many patients ask us if they should use cotton swabs (or Q-Tips) to keep their ears clean. We advise against using Q-Tips or any other objects down inside the ear canal simply because these well-meaning attempts to remove the wax usually push the wax deeper into the ear canal and interfere with the ear's self-cleaning process. The skin of the eardrum and ear canal are constantly migrating out of the ear and fall out of the ears in tiny unnoticeable flakes, just like the skin everywhere else in the body. If you use Q-Tips down inside the ear you actually end up pushing the wax further into the ear canal and building a dam so that any other skin that comes down the canal ends up hitting that material and causing the wax to build up. If it builds up enough it may even block the sound from entering the canal completely!
We also advise against using Q-Tips and other instruments in the ear canal because if someone accidentally bumps your elbow, the force could potentially push the Q-tip too far into the ear canal and perforate the eardrum! Remember the old adage "Don't put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear?" It's true!
Patients also ask us if ear candles work to remove earwax. We advise against using any sort of burning material next to your face, hair and ears just due to the potential for burns. If you are concerned about earwax, visit your primary care provider or your local audiologist so they can check your ears and remove the wax safely.
For patients that wear hearing aids, it's even more important to visit your local audiologist regularly so they can make sure your ears and hearing devices are clean and free of any earwax that might affect the performance of your hearing aids.
Now that we have warmer weather, we know people will begin using their lawn care machinery and advise that anyone using gasoline powered equipment or any saws use hearing protection to prevent exposure to damaging levels of noise. A lawn mower usually measures at about 85dB which, per OSHA, is loud enough to cause hearing damage and earplugs would be required!
We also recommend that patient that have hearing loss make sure they obtain and consistently wear appropriately fit hearing aids on a full time basis. Recent research has shown strong correlations between hearing health and brain health. Recent research at Johns Hopkins has shown that patients with untreated hearing loss have much higher incidences of cognitive decline and memory loss than patients with hearing loss that wore hearing aids!