14 Sep 411 on ear care
(Source: “There’s More to Ears Than Just Wax” by Nicholas Bakalar, https://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/13/health/13ears.html)
Earwax is protective material that contains bacteria-fighting elements. It acts as a cleaning agent that lubricates and protects part of the ear canal. Two claps and a thumbs up for ear wax! Also, it usually eases its way out of your ear, without any need for you to interfere, all by itself…. Well, ok, technically, the movement of your jaw is what helps move it along.
Sometimes though, earwax accumulates and has to be cleaned out because it can impede hearing, cause itching, ringing or pain. Do not use Q-tips! Only ever use a Q-tip on the outside part of your ear “the rim and creases,” not near the “hole.” If you feel you need to clean your ears, use an over the counter preparation that will soften the wax so it can be washed out without risking damage to the inner ear.
The inner ear contains hair cells which convert mechanical energy of sound into electrical energy, which is transmitted through nerves to the brain. A very, very, very loud noise (such as an explosion) close to the ear can destroy these cells, causing instant deafness. Repeated and continuous exposure to loud noise can cause gradual and cumulative damage. Maybe that’s why grandpa can’t hear you all the time—all those concerts he went to! Imagine that?
How loud is too loud? If you use your iPod earbuds as a way of masking your environmental sound, it’s probably too loud. If you can hear someone else’s music while they’re listening to their phone, they’re doing damage to their ears. As for standing close to the speakers at a rock concert, don’t do it. Protect your ears from excessive noise. The small hairs in your ears, cilia, are very delicate. They need to be in order to pick up the smallest nuances of sound. But, this also means that they can be easily damaged, and once damaged, THEY CAN NOT REPAIR THEMSELVES. If you consistently listen to music via earphones where the music drowns out all the sounds around you, you are likely damaging your hearing forever. Yes, we just said forever.
Do you think you listen to your music too loudly? Now that you know what loud noise can do to your ear cells, will you change what you do? Why or why not?