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Man lying down receiving ear candling treatment

Our ears may possibly be our most mistreated body part. We pierce them, subject them to deafening noise, force cotton swabs inside them, and burn them with ear candling. Despite providing us with one of our most significant senses, we never give our ears, or our hearing, much appreciation or thought.

That is, up until there are problems. After that, we recognize just how important healthy hearing really is—and how we should have learned proper ear care sooner. The secret is to comprehend this before the harm is done.

If you desire to avoid problems and protect your hearing, stay away from these 4 hazardous practices.

1. Ear Candling

Ear candling is a method of eliminating earwax, and additionally, as one researcher put it, “the triumph of ignorance over science.”

Here’s how ear candling is conducted. One end of a slim tube made of cotton and beeswax is inserted into the ear. The other end is set on fire, which allegedly creates a vacuum of negative pressure that sucks earwax up into the tube.

Except that it does not, for two reasons.

First of all, the ear candle doesn’t create negative pressure. As explained by Lisa M.L. Dryer, MD, earwax is sticky, so even if negative pressure was created, the pressure called for to suck up earwax would end up rupturing the eardrum.

Second, while the wax and ash resemble earwax, no earwax is actually found within the ear candle after the treatment. Clinical psychologist Philip Kaushall tested this by burning some ear candles the traditional way and burning other candles without inserting them into the ear. The residue was exactly the same for both groups.

Ear candling is also dangerous and is firmly opposed by both the FDA and the American Academy of Otolaryngology (physicians specializing in the ear, nose, and throat), if you require any other reasons not to do it.

2. Employing cotton swabs to clean your ears

We’ve written about this in other articles, but inserting any foreign object into your ear simply forces the earwax against the eardrum, generating an impaction and potentially a ruptured eardrum and hearing loss.

Your earwax is made up of beneficial antibacterial and lubricating properties, and is organically eliminated by the regular movements of the jaw (from speaking and chewing). All that’s needed from you is normal showering, or, if you do have trouble with too much earwax, a professional cleaning from your hearing practitioner.

But don’t take our word for it: just take a look at the back of the package of any box of cotton swabs. You’ll come across a warning from the producers themselves advising you to not enter the ear canal with their product.

3. Listening to exceedingly loud music

Our ears are simply not equipped to manage the loud sounds we’ve figured out how to create. In fact, any sound louder than 85 decibels has the potential to produce irreversible hearing loss.

How loud is 85 decibels?

An ordinary conversation registers at about 60, while a rock concert registers at over 100. But here’s the thing about the decibel scale: it’s logarithmic, not linear. That means the leap from 60 to 100 decibels does not make the rock concert twice as loud, it makes it about 16 times as loud!

Likewise, many earbuds can achieve a similar output of 100 decibels or higher—all from inside of the ear canal. It’s no real shock then that this can produce irreparable injury.

If you prefer to conserve your hearing, make sure to wear earplugs to concerts (and while at work if needed) and maintain your portable music player volume at about 60 percent or less of its max volume (with a 60 minute listening time limit). It may not be cool to wear earplugs to your next concert, but premature hearing loss is not much cooler.

4. Overlooking the signs and symptoms of hearing loss

Finally, we have the distressing fact that individuals have the tendency to wait nearly a decade from the onset of symptoms before searching for help for their hearing loss.

That indicates two things: 1) people needlessly experience the consequences of hearing loss for 10 years, and 2) they make their hearing loss much more difficult to treat.

It’s true that hearing aids are not perfect, but it’s also true that with today’s technology, hearing aids are remarkably effective. The level of hearing you get back will depend on the extent of your hearing loss, and seeing that hearing loss has a tendency to get more serious as time passes, it’s best to get tested and treated as soon as you notice any symptoms.