The World Health Organization has designated today, March 3rd, as International Ear Care Day. According to the WHO, approximately 50% of cases of hearing loss worldwide could be avoided through primary prevention techniques.
During my international training and mentoring missions to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, I saw many cases of hearing loss in adults and children due to environmental damage (loud noise exposure), untreated otitis media (ear infections), or illness (prenatal, childhood, or adult). There is much that needs to be done worldwide to prevent unnecessary cases of hearing loss and to provide appropriate amplification and rehabilitation for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. While a global revolution in the standard of hearing healthcare will not happen overnight, here are some simple tips that we can all follow to improve the quality of ear care at home and abroad:
Turn it down! Protect your ears from loud noises by lowering the volume when you can, and using ear protection when you can’t.
Step away from the Q-tips! Remember that nothing smaller than your elbow should go into your ear, for fear of damagingyour tympanic membrane (ear drum). Q-tips may give the illusion of cleaning out your ear canal, but they really just push the cerumen (wax) around and leave bits of cotton behind, too. Other products on the market, like ear candles or even an earwax “vacuum” (it’s true, I’ve seen them in stores!) are equally ineffective and even possibly dangerous. The best way to keep your ears clean is to let them do their thing. The skin of your ear canal naturally grows outward to push wax out as it goes. Clean your ears out with a towel after bathing, or, if things feel really stopped up, tilt your head, pour a small amount of warm water in your ear canal, let it sit for a minute, then tilt the other way to flush it out and wipe with a clean towel. For any bigger problems than that, it’s best to see your physician.
Have ear infections treated immediately by a physician. Chronic, untreated ear infections or middle ear fluid can lead to hearing loss over time.
Learn about preventable causes of hearing loss, like CMV (cytomegalovirus), meningitis, rubella, and ototoxic medications.