Cotton wool, water and auditory tubes: How to care for your ears 

By | September 2, 2021

IF YOU ASK ANY PERSON TO LIST THE FIVE BASIC KINDS of perception, then after sight, he will most likely name hearing. At the same time, we often know little about our own ears – except that on the plane they are laid due to a change in pressure, and otitis media is treated by an otorhinolaryngologist. We tried to figure out whether headphones can be harmful, for what violations to see a doctor, whether it is possible to make it easier to put your ears on the plane and how to properly care for your ears if cotton swabs are dangerous .

Are the headphones safe

According to WHO, more than one billion children and young adults (12 to 35 years old) are at increased risk of hearing loss due to noise exposure during rest – and 60% of hearing loss in children could be prevented. One of the reasons is incorrect use of headphones. Each ear has about eighteen thousand so-called cilia – tiny hair cells that transmit sound. They are involved in a process that sends an electrical signal to the brain, where it is then translated into a recognizable sound. Too high a sound level damages the hair cells – and if they die, they no longer regenerate.

It is difficult to say which headphones are safer: on the one hand, part of the sound is scattered from the outside even before it enters the ear canal, and on the other hand, this can lead to the fact that the person simply makes it louder. Often you want to turn up the volume due to the fact that the sound is not very high quality or, for example, bass is poorly transmitted – therefore, it is better not to spare money on high-quality headphones that transmit the sound as cleanly as possible. For safety reasons, it is recommended to listen to music at a level not exceeding 85 decibels for no more than eight hours a day. True, few people have a decibel meter at hand, so it’s easier to adhere to the 60/60 rule: listen for no more than an hour in a row and with a volume of no more than 60% of the maximum. By the way, in the settings of many gadgets, you can set the maximum permissible volume level.

Why does your ears get stuck on the plane?

Plugging the ears is really associated with a sharp change in air pressure, when the pressure in the middle ear does not have time to equal that of the environment. Most often this happens during takeoff and landing – in English the phenomenon itself is called ” airplane ear ” – but it also happens when moving on a high-speed elevator, scuba diving or in a situation when an explosion occurred nearby. In addition to laying, you can feel slight discomfort or pain in the ear, a feeling of fullness, a slight hearing loss. Sometimes the symptoms become more severe: severe pain, significant hearing loss, ringing in the ears, dizziness, and even nausea. If these symptoms persist within a few hours of the flight, it is best to see a doctor.

Most passengers know how to prevent or relieve this condition: yawning, swallowing or chewing gum. Actually, for this purpose, caramel used to be distributed (and sometimes continue to be distributed) on airplanes: when saliva is swallowed, the pressure in the middle ear is gradually compared to that of the environment. The American Academy of Otolaryngology recommends during takeoff and landing to equalize the pressure with “inflation of the nose”: take in air, close your mouth and nose and try to exhale through the nose. Colds, or rather a runny nose, is a risk factor for otitis media (ear inflammation) after the flight, so even with a mild cold on the plane, you need to use vasoconstrictor drops or spray. Risk factors for more severe symptoms, such as ear pain, include sleep during landing and takeoff – it does not allow you to control the level of pressure, so sleep is not recommended. Children who are not yet able to do the pressure equalization exercise should be given water or milk.

Is it harmful to get water in your ears

Sometimes you can hear that it is impossible to wet children’s ears – and adults supposedly need to wipe dry as quickly as possible. In reality, reasonable amounts of water are not harmful if the ears are healthy. But there is such a condition as the swimmer’s ear – this is an acute inflammation of the external ear, extremely painful and unpleasant, and it really is associated with a long stay in the water, although this is not the root cause. If you stay in a humid environment for a very long time, bacteria that are usually present on the skin and in the ear proliferate – and any damage to the skin of the ear canal can be complicated by an infection. This condition must be treated – see a doctor who will prescribe ear drops and possibly antibiotics.

Where does ringing in the ears come from?

A sound that actually does not exist – noise or ringing – is heard by one in five people on earth, and this state is called tinnitus. Tinnitus itself is not a disease, but it can be a symptom of both harmless and quite dangerous conditions, so it deserves a visit to a doctor. The noise can be one-sided or in both ears, reaching a volume that makes it difficult to focus or hear real sound. The cause of tinnitus can be, for example, age-related changes and disorders of the bone tissue that conducts sound , exposure to loud noise when working with equipment or at a concert – as well as the accumulation of earwax. Earwax is actually a protective substance that traps dirt and dust and slows down the growth of bacteria. But if it accumulates too much, then hearing may deteriorate, and irritation of the eardrum will lead to ringing in the ears.

Tinnitus can be caused by problems in the outer, middle, or inner ear – and it can also be related to the functioning of the auditory nerves or the part of the brain that interprets the signals received as sound. By the way, in addition to subjective tinnitus, in which tinnitus is not heard by others, there is also objective tinnitus – when the doctor can hear it during examination. This is a rare type of tinnitus that is caused by blood vessels, ear bones, or muscles.

Are cotton swabs dangerous?

Q-tips are useful when you need to touch up your makeup, but dangerous if you stick it in your ear, trying to pull out the earwax. However, it is also better not to use other objects – invisibility, tweezers, pencils and paper clips for this. In general, earwax is constantly moving along the ear canal from the tympanic membrane outward – chewing food, speaking and yawning contribute to this. To maintain hygiene, it is enough to take care of your ears, wash them with soap and water or shampoo when you take a shower.

In the ear canal, sulfur has a protective and moisturizing function – and trying to pull it out with a cotton swab will only push the wax closer to the eardrum. This can result in injury and even hearing loss. If, for some reason, too much sulfur is formed, you can contact an ENT doctor who will remove its excess and tell you how to solve this problem in the future.

How ears are associated with balance

The ears are responsible not only for hearing: in the inner ear is the organ of balance and body position in space, the vestibular apparatus. It consists of the so-called semicircular canals – curved tubes of fluid located in three different planes. When the head is motionless and straight, the brain receives the same impulses from both vestibular apparatuses – but with any change in position due to the movement of fluid in these channels, impulses, on the one hand, increase, and on the other, decrease. These changes are transmitted to the cerebral cortex, where they are analyzed along with information about body position and visual information – and there is a conscious sensation of head turning.

Any disease in which the signals from the vestibular apparatus to the brain are disrupted causes dizziness. And although such disorders are usually dealt with by neurologists, in case of persistent dizziness, it will be useful to make an appointment with an ENT doctor to rule out disorders in the inner ear.

What to do if hearing is still impaired

Hearing aids, electronic devices that are inserted into or worn over the ear, help in many cases. Modern devices are almost invisible and help to hear both in silence and against a background of noise, significantly improving the quality of life. They improve hearing lost due to damage to the hair cells of the inner ear – this can be age-related or associated with various diseases or exposure to noise. In fact, a hearing aid is an amplifier that increases the strength of a sound wave, and the preserved hair cells capture it and transmit it to the brain in the form of nerve impulses. If the inner ear is seriously damaged and cannot convert signals, then the device, unfortunately, will not help.

There is evidence that only one out of five people for whom they are recommended uses a hearing aid – apparently, this is due to psychological discomfort. Still, it is better to overcome embarrassment: it is not more difficult for others to get used to the sight of a hearing aid than to the sight of glasses, but full hearing significantly improves the quality of life and increases safety – for example, if you are a pedestrian or a driver. If you suspect a hearing impairment, you should consult an otorhinolaryngologist or audiologist, a hearing specialist.

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