Fitness Facts: Ear care

December 14, 2021 / by / 0 Comment

By Connie Colbert
GCU Director of Health Services

We do not always think about taking care of our ears, but proper ear care can prevent common ear problems.

Taking care of your ears includes cleaning, preventing and treating infections, taking steps to avoid unnecessary noise and watching for possible hearing loss.

Connie Colbert

Did you know there is a right way to clean your ears? Here are a few ear hygiene tips:

  • Clean your ears with extra care. Do not clean your ears with anything smaller than a washcloth on your finger. Don’t use cotton swabs, bobby pins, your keys or any sharp, pointed objects to clean your ears. These objects may injure the ear canal or eardrum. If the ear canal is scratched, it often often lead to swelling and an infection called otitis externa. This can cause extreme pain and damage to the eardrum.
  • You also can get infections in your ear canal. Moisture in the ear canal can promote bacteria to grow there. One of the most common infections is swimmer’s ear. The best way to protect against these infections is by keeping your ears dry. After showering or swimming, use a towel to dry your ears.
  • Earwax is the ear’s way of cleaning itself. If you have a buildup of wax that is blocking your hearing, see a health care provider to have it removed. Do not try to remove it on your own.
  • To clean your outer ear, simply use water, a gentle soap and a washcloth. You also can use a cotton swab to run in the curves of your upper ear — just do not stick them in your ear canal. Use the washcloth to wipe above and behind your ear.
  • If you experience itching or pain in your ears, see a health care provider so they can investigate your ear with an otoscope and determine the cause of the pain or itching. Many times, it can be a sign of infection, allergies or even injury.
  • If you have pierced ears, clean your earrings and earlobes regularly with rubbing alcohol.

If you will be flying this holiday season, swallow and yawn frequently when the plane is coming down 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 landing and/or use a decongestant spray just before descending and on landing.

Because of the ways that our bodies are connected, certain illnesses – such as an upper respiratory infection – can make ear infections or hearing loss more likely.

In addition, your ears can be affected by side effects from medications. But when should you see a health care provider?

  • Some illnesses and medical conditions can affect your hearing.
  • Drainage from the ear is not normal and usually suggests infection.
  • Some medications can affect hearing. Take medications only as directed, and consult your provider if you develop difficulty hearing, balance problems or ringing in the ears.  Something as common as aspirin or ibuprofen can contribute to hearing loss.

How to protect your hearing from noise:

  • Loud noises can damage the tiny bones in your ear, causing hearing loss. This noise-induced hearing loss can happen in an instant. Or it can occur over time.
  • Ear experts recommend that your ears will need about 16 hours of quiet to recover from a single noisy night out.
  • To protect your hearing, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends limiting the time and volume for listening through headphones. According to WHO, you should use them no more than one hour a day, and the volume should be no more than 60%. WHO also suggests using noise-canceling headphones. These may help you resist the urge to turn up the music.

Warning signs of hearing loss:

  • You have difficulty hearing conversations, especially in the presence of background noise.
  • You frequently ask others to repeat what they have said.
  • You don’t always understand what other people are saying and you answer inappropriately.
  • You have difficulty hearing on the telephone.
  • You agree, nod your head or smile during conversations when you are not sure what has been said. Or you strain to hear or keep up with conversations.
  • 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.
  • Having a hard time hearing environmental sounds, such as birds chirping.
  • Withdrawing from conversations and social situations because it’s too difficult to hear.
  • Reading lips so you can try to follow what people are saying.
  • Hearing noise within your ears or head, called tinnitus, which is not caused by an external sound source.

When you should be screened for hearing loss:

  • Most school-aged children have a hearing screening every year at school.
  • Adults who do not have hearing loss or other ear problems can go longer.
  • The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends that adults be screened at least every 10 years through age 50. After that, you should have your hearing screened every 3-5 years.
  • If you suspect you have hearing loss, you should see a health care provider.


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