Have you ever looked closely at a baby’s ears? The miraculous folds and crevices are perfectly designed to let us hear clearly—and if you could peek inside at the incredible interior, you would be even more amazed. Day after day, we expect our ears to go on working with very little attention, but we soon notice when something goes wrong. However, with some loving care, we can maximize the chances of our eyes staying in perfect condition.
1. Clean the outer ear regularly
The intricate patterns around our outer ear can harbor germs, sweat and dirt, so keep your outer ears squeaky clean by washing daily. A soft washcloth is ideal, with a gentle soap to lift off built-up grime. For smaller ears, a washcloth is too bulky, so use a wet wipe instead. Ensure you clean the ear thoroughly, but don’t scrub too hard or you might damage the delicate skin.
2. Avoid inserting anything into your ear
Inserting sharp objects into your ear can damage the ear drum or sensitive ear canal. Removing ear wax with Q-tips is a common practice, but this can actually cause more harm than good. Ear wax actually protects the fragile inner ear from dust, bacteria and other items that may find their way in. It’s made in the outer area of the ear canal, and our natural jaw movements usually allow it to pass out naturally. This means we only need to clean the exterior. As such, experts recommend never putting anything smaller than an elbow into your ear!
3. Deal with impacted wax
There are several reasons why wax can become impacted and hardened within the ear canal. Pushing it into the ear when cleaning (e.g. with a cotton swab) is a common cause, but sometimes wearing hearing aids or frequent headphone use can cause wax buildup too. You can soften the wax with warm baby oil or ear drops, so it exits naturally. However, if it’s very impacted or if you’ve had an infection, it’s safer to let your doctor deal with it.
4. Get regular hearing checks
Everyone should get their hearing checked regularly. Hearing can become dull because of hardened wax, catarrh in the ear canals, some health conditions, or natural aging. Glue ear is common in children, when sticky fluid builds up in the narrow ear passages after frequent colds, preventing the ear drum from functioning properly. Tiny tubes—known as “grommets”—may need to be inserted into the ear drum to relieve pressure and allow the fluid to drain away.
5. Check out blocked ears
Your ears should never become blocked for more than a day or two (for example, if you have a heavy cold). There are many ways in which they can become blocked. For example, if you swim regularly, water can get trapped in your ears, which can lead to a painful infection if it’s not allowed to drain out. Excess catarrh from the nasal passages and sinuses can also affect the ear canals, leading to that uncomfortable blocked sensation. If left untreated, fluids in the ear can become infected, so it’s essential to get blocked ears checked quickly.
6. Never ignore pain
Earache can make you feel miserable, so never ignore ear pain. Instead, deal with it promptly so that an infection won’t have time to take hold. Quick treatment can also prevent more serious problems, such as an abscess in the ear (which is extremely painful and could even cause a perforated ear drum).
7. Protect your ears from loud sounds
Long-term exposure to loud noise levels can cause permanent damage to your hearing, so always make every effort to protect your ears. If your job requires you to work with noisy machinery, use ear protectors. Listening to music at high volume on headphones is another culprit, so limit the volume and consider special protection earphones for kids. Loud car sound systems or regular noisy concerts can also take their toll over time.
8. Use your hearing aids correctly
Last but not least, if you need to wear a hearing aid then be sure to use it correctly. Ensure it is properly adjusted, and preserve with it—even if you find it difficult at first. It will prevent you from feeling isolated in social situations, and make you feel more involved. However, you may find wax builds up more readily, so keep your earpiece and ears clean to avoid blockages.