Just like there are basic tenets of dental hygiene (brush teeth twice daily), physical health (exercise between 30-60 minutes a day) and emotional wellbeing (meditate or journal daily), so too are there basic rules of ear health.

To maintain healthy ears for your lifetime, there are basic steps to take in order to protect your ears. Ears require protection from many stimuli in the environment, including loud noises or sounds. However, ears also need protection from trauma (sometimes caused by those loud noises or sounds), infections and other disorders. Additionally, ear health is important to maintain to help slow down normal attrition (hearing loss) that often occurs with age.

Develop an ear health routine

The great thing about maintaining ear health is that preventative steps are simple and just god common sense. However, it is important to note there are many misconceptions about how to maintain ear health that are important to understand.

What to do about earwax

One big misconception floats around how to clean the ears. Earwax – that sticky, yellow foul tasting stuff (everyone’s accidentally tasted at least once in their life) – is an antibacterial substance that prevents debris and dirt from entering the ear canal. In other words, it’s a completely natural and very helpful substance to maintaining ear health. However, as new earwax is produced, old earwax pushes out to the outer ear. This earwax is typically dried and crusty and can sometimes be visible, requiring cleaning.

Avoid using cotton swabs inside your ear

Using cotton swabs to clean that outer earwax away is a big no-no, despite the misconception that it is the only way to clean the ear. In fact, using cotton swabs to clean the ear out is dangerous and can actually make any hearing loss associated with overproduction of earwax worse. When cotton swabs are inserted into the ear, they push earwax farther back into the ear canal, sometimes causing earwax impaction. Cotton swabs can also puncture the eardrum or damage the tiny hair cells responsible for picking up sounds.

The right way to clean your ears

The right way to clean the ears is during a shower or bath; take a warm, moist, soapy washcloth and gently wipe the outer ear. Upon the completion of a bath or shower, make sure to thoroughly dry the ears by gently wiping each ear with a towel and tilting the head to each side to ensure all water has drained out of the ear canals.

Take steps to prevent hearing damage

The preventative steps to maintaining proper ear health involve protection. It is important to protect the ears from exposure to loud noises by wearing protection. Earplugs and earmuffs are great accessories to wear to help reduce the sounds in the environment. These accessories should be worn during concerts or other loud arena or gaming events, as well as during everyday activities and chores, such as mowing the lawn. Likewise, if you work in a noisy environment, such as in the manufacturing industry, make sure your employer provides adequate hearing protection.

If you’re wondering about the condition your auditory system is in, don’t hesitate to contact a hearing care provider in your area to learn more!