There is much more to the ear than what meets the eye. Primarily, our ear is divided into the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. The outer and middle ears maintain optimal conditions essential for the hearing process and to direct the sound stimuli to the actual sensory receptors located in the inner ear.
Damage to any part of the ear can lead to hearing disorders, hearing loss or other health complications like vertigo.
Hearing loss may also be caused by a birth defect, an injury, or a disease. Proper care of the ears is critical to keeping this complex sensory organ in sound health as long as we live.
Here’s how to keep your ears in mint condition:
- Keep your ears clean
- Take precautions against exposure to loud noises
- Avoid bathing/swimming in unhygienic waters
- Attend to symptoms [abnormalities] and seek expert opinion immediately
- Avoid drugs that can damage hearing
- Do not self-medicate
- Ensure residual water is allowed out after bath/swim
- Do not attempt to remove any foreign objects from the ear without a doctor’s assistance.
Call for attention
Ear infections are most common in babies and young children. The infection affects the middle ear and is called otitis media. The tubes inside the ears become clogged with fluid and mucus. This causes hearing loss as sound waves cannot get through all that fluid. If you have any of the following symptoms, get your ears checked by an expert at the earliest:
- Any discharge from the ears
- Pain in the ears
- Unexplained deafness or diminished hearing
- Noises in the ear
- Unexplained giddiness
- Repeated facial paralysis
- Bleeding from the ear [mostly found in the elderly]
- Poor performance at school in children.
Usually, ear infections heal by themselves. However, sometimes you may need pain relievers. Severe infections may even require antibiotics. Children who get frequent infections may need surgery to place small tubes inside their ears. These tubes relieve pressure in the ears and the child can hear again.
There are many factors that adversely affect our ear causing hearing loss—either temporary or permanent. Some of them are:
- Wax: Wax is produced to protect and lubricate the tissues of the ear canal. However, an over build-up of wax can block the ear canal causing symptoms like blocked feeling, itching, deafness, discomfort and pain. Wax softeners can come to the rescue here.
- Trauma: Slapping on the ear, accidents, skull fractures and perforation of the eardrum can damage our ears.
- Noise: Loud blasting music, bursting fire crackers or exposure to gunfire could lead to severe pain or even bleeding from the ear.
- Others: A foreign object stuck inside the ear canal, excess cold, fever, allergies and certain drugs can cause temporary hearing loss. Hearing loss can also be a result of certain genetic disorders.
Signs, symptoms and care for children
- Unexplained crying in infants could mean ear trouble.
- Since our ear, nose and throat are connected, diseases in nose, sinuses, throat and teeth often affect hearing. If the child suffers from any of these, check to see if it has impacted the child’s hearing. If s/he is suffering from pain in the ear, it could be resulting from problems in adjacent structures with same nerve supply like teeth or tongue.
- Poor grades in school could be due to defective hearing. To eliminate this possibility, periodic checks are a must.
- Constant or regular exposure to high intensity noises can damage the ear. Keep children away from loud noise, if that’s not possible, protect their ears by covering them.
- A foul smelling discharge from the ear requires immediate professional attention. It may lead to conductive deafness and needs surgery.
- Hot oils harm the ears, affecting hearing. Refrain from ‘oiling’ children’s ears.
For Clean Ears
According to the Asian ENT Care Centre, our ears are capable of cleaning themselves because of migratory capacity of skin of ear canal. This means that there is really no need to actually clean them. We shouldn’t actually be even cleaning the wax that our ear secretes because wax [or cerumen] is not dirt as we think. Just like our skin produces sweat, the glands in the skin of our ear canal secrete wax, to act as a protective layer for this sensitive part. This coating helps repel water and traps dust particles. By cleaning this wax, we actually expose our ears to infection.
“In addition, chronic cleaning of ear causes dryness leading to itching, scratching. Continues itching may damage the skin and in turn, lead to bacterial and fungal infections,” says Archana Jhawar, MS, ENT.
At the most, we can clean the pinna [outer ear].
- The correct way to clean the outer ear is to wipe round the pinna and behind the ear with soapy finger.
- Do not clean the ears with pins, keys or pens.
- There is no need to clean your ears everyday. Once in a week is fine.
— Team CW