While earwax, also called cerumen, is a naturally occurring substance with health benefits, too much earwax can actually lead to hearing loss. Audiologists recommend that people clean their ears with a damp, warm washcloth daily, during a bath or shower. The ears should be dried thoroughly afterward.
Sometimes, additional ear cleaning is needed, especially when individuals produce too much earwax. When too much earwax is produced, it needs to be removed in order to prevent cerumen impaction.
Ear wax impaction is characterised by symptoms such as:
How Should I Clean My Ears?
To avoid these symptoms, it is important to follow safety protocols when cleaning your ears. Most cases of earwax blockage can be remedied using home treatments that soften the wax, but you should check with your hearing care professional to be sure.
The most effective at-home treatment is placing oil drops into the ear. Many household oils such as mineral oil, baby oil, and even olive oil can work to soften the hard, impacted earwax.
To use the oil, tilt the head to one side and insert five to 10 drops of oil into the affected ear. Hold the position for at least 10 minutes before bringing the head upright.
What If Oil Doesn’t Work?
If the earwax is persistent or multiple rounds of oil treatments do not help soften and remove the earwax, you may need to see a hearing healthcare provider for professional removal.
Hearing loss may become noticeable as you begin struggling to hear conversations with your loved ones in a busy restaurant or you need to turn up the TV to be able to listen to your favorite TV program clearly. Safety can also be an issue with hearing loss – Imagine if you don’t hear the car behind you when walking in a busy city or if you cannot hear the fire alarm in your house.
Ten million people in the UK – one in six of us – have some degree of hearing loss. We tend to see this as an inevitable part of aging, but there’s growing evidence of wider health implications. It can lead to social isolation, which in turn can contribute to mental health problems such as depression. Research suggests that it may be linked to an increased risk of developing dementia.
However, people in the UK suffer on average for 10 years before they seek treatment for hearing loss. One reason for this, is worrying about being given a large and obtrusive hearing aid, however modern varieties and the latest technology render this belief to be false.
Another reason many people don’t seek treatment, is failing to notice their hearing is declining. It can be tricky to spot gradual hearing loss, in part because our brains have a surprising way to compensate without us being aware, by relying more heavily on our vision. This is something we can use to our advantage, to help us cope with hearing loss.
Neuroscientists once thought that dedicated parts of the brain dealt with hearing and vision separately, and only later was the information from these two senses put together. Now scientists know that our brain is ‘cross-referencing’ information from our senses at an earlier stage than we thought. One of the ways this benefits us is by helping in situations that are difficult for hearing.
For instance, as we age, hearing what someone is saying in a noisy environment like a restaurant can become very challenging. However, our vision can provide our brain with extra information, such as mouth movements and gestures. This make it easier and requires less effort to pick a person’s voice out of background noise and discern what they are saying
The following factors contribute to age-related hearing loss:
When your brain is deprived of sound stimulation, it loses the ability to process sounds. The longer you wait, the more sounds disappear and it takes more time to re-adapt.
After you have a hearing test, your audiologist will review the hearing test results on an audiogram.
An audiogram is a graph that shows hearing sensitivity. The frequencies at the top of the graph are in Hertz (Hz). A frequency is often referred to as pitch. The higher the frequency the higher the pitch. The sound levels measured in decibels (dB) are located on the left side of the graph. Further down on the graph means an increase in intensity or loudness.
Your hearing levels in each ear are plotted on the graph to show the softest levels you can hear each pitch. The louder sounds are made to be heard, the greater the degree of hearing loss.
A hearing test carried out by a professional audilogists can tell you whether you have hearing loss and, if so what type and level.
A hearing test lasts about 20 minutes and isn’t uncomfortable. Before it starts, you will be asked about your hearing and your ears checked. They will then test one ear at a time. For the standard test, called audiometry, you will listen to sounds of different tones and volumes though headphones and will be asked to press a button each time you hear a sound. The noises will gradually become quiet to find the softest sounds that you can hear. The results of the test are recorded on a chart called an audiogram.
The audiologist might then ask you to wear a headband with a vibrating pad. This pad sends sound through the bones in your head directly to the cochlea (the hearing organ in your inner ear), on both sides of your head. Again, you’ll be asked to press a button each time you hear a sound. This test checks whether the cochlea and hearing nerve is working or damaged.
At some point, the audiologist might play a rushing noise into one ear to cover up sounds while they test your other ear.
Some audiology services carry out slightly different tests, and you may need more examinations to find out more detailed information about your ears and hearing.
If you are diagnosed with hearing loss, the audiologist will explain the type of hearing loss you have and whether it can be treated. They will also let you know whether hearing aids could help you.
Untreated hearing loss can start to have a huge impact on your day to day life. Social situations can become so tiring that you start to give up on them altogether. You may find you are tuning out of conversations or starting to withdraw completely, which means missing out on precious time with family and friends. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why some recent studies have shown a link between untreated hearing loss and the development of dementia.
Age-related is the most common type of hearing loss and there is currently no cure. However for most people, a hearing aid can help greatly.
Earwax removal can be a pretty scary thing when it’s your first time. However, most people don’t realise that it’s very common. It’s so common in fact, that it’s the most likely reason for temporary hearing loss. No need to be embarrassed as you’re not the only one having problems with earwax. It’s natural for there to be a build up from time to time. Below are the two types of earwax removal you will come across with the advantages and disadvantages as well as how to protect your ears.
Microsuction is a newer form of earwax removal and the preferred option. Not only do you not need to soften the wax using olive oil or ear drops in most cases, it doesn’t leave the ear waterlogged after the procedure. In addition, it is less likely to cause an ear infection as can happen sometimes with irrigation. Microsuction earwax removal works by placing what might as well be a vacuum cleaner into the ear. This then sucks the earwax out. Some clinics will have camera on the end of the Microsuction device with a television screen so you can see the earwax as it’s being removed.
Irrigation involves pumping water into the ear and holding a pan on the neck of the patient till all the wax gets flushed out. The downside to irrigation is that you usually have to spend a couple of weeks softening the wax with olive oil or ear drops. If you’re looking to have the wax removed same day, irrigation isn’t convenient. Irrigation also leaves your ears vulnerable to infection as they can become waterlogged (otitis externa).