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Hearing Mythbusters

With the internet being ubiquitous, information is easier to access than ever. However, that does not mean that the information is necessarily correct. This sentiment is especially relevant when it comes to health advice. One might read that carrots help improve eyesight; in actuality, this was wartime propaganda to disguise radar technology.
Given the daily onslaught of information, it can be difficult to determine what is factual.

Cleaning Your Ears

Earwax is not innately bad. In fact, it offers multiple benefits! It can serve to keep bugs out of your ear canal and studies have shown it possesses antibacterial and antifungal properties. Of course, too much of a good thing can begin to cause issues. Impacted earwax (i.e. filling the entire canal) can cause hearing difficulty and discomfort. Realistically, though, the majority of people are not at risk of impacted earwax. The skin in the ear canal grows outward, carrying excess wax with it. However, people with stiff or curvy canals, or those who naturally produce a lot of wax, may find that it starts to build up. What are the options for someone in the latter category?

Odds are Q-tips spring to mind. After all, who doesn’t love scrubbing their ear canals after a nice shower? But Q-tips do pose some risk. First, the wax may be inadvertently pushed further down the canal. More concerning, the Q-tip may be inserted too deeply and cause pain or harm. If use cannot be resisted, hold the Q-tip near the end and clean only the outer portion of the canal.

Another common home remedy is an ear candle. In theory, a hollow candle is placed into the ear canal and the opposite end is lit, creating a pressure which removes debris. However, no scientific evidence supports the efficacy of ear candling. Quite the opposite is true. The literature states that ear candling has at best a neutral effect, and can actually pose some risks. There have been reports of burns, infections and even candle wax and ash deposits in the canal.

The best way to prevent buildup is to keep the earwax moist. If the wax is dry and hard, it cannot flow out of the canal as easily. Debrox is the name of popular and safe over-the-counter drops designed to clean the ears. Mineral oil is another reliable, natural preventative measure. Olive oil should be avoided, as it is too thick.

Of course, medical professionals can remove the wax as well. Audiologists regularly have standing appointments every few months to clean out patients’ ears.

Treating Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a condition in which a person hears a sound despite there being no external stimulus to produce said sound. It may sound like ringing or cicadas, although it differs for everyone. At the time of writing, there is no known cure for tinnitus. Unfortunately, there are many medications hawked as treatments. The majority tend to contain a supplement called ginkgo balboa. No studies to date have shown that ginkgo balboa or any other supplements have any effect on tinnitus. There is no inherent danger from these medications, but any perceived benefit is likely a placebo effect.

While tinnitus cannot yet be cured, there are daily strategies that can help manage the severity. First, stress should be minimized as much as possible. Studies show that when people are under more stress, tinnitus tends to be rated as more severe or bothersome. Diet has also been shown to play a role. Caffeine, salt, sugar, alcohol and nicotine play the biggest role in causing tinnitus to flare, but different individuals can be affected by certain foods. Reducing intake of any of the above may offer some relief. Another strategy, although not always simple, is to not focus on the tinnitus. Focusing on the noise will cause stress, which can exacerbate the noise.

Many people find that having background noise, such as television or a white noise machine, can help to mask the noise they hear in their ears. If someone needs consistent noise, hearing aids have the capacity to play customized masking sounds. Additionally, the literature shows that simply wearing hearing aids can offer significant relief for many people. Please note that counseling options are also available for more severe cases.

If you are unsure if a piece of information is accurate, ask your hearing care provider. Extensive schooling and continuing education ensure their knowledge remains current. Accurate information is the greatest tool in remaining healthy. FBN

By Jeff Lane, Au. D.

Dr. Jeff Lane is an audiologist at Trinity Hearing Center, located at 1330 N. Rim Dr., Suite B in Flagstaff. For more information, visit the website at TrinityHearing.net. Dr. Lane has a passion for improving the lives of others and may be reached at 928-522-0500 or at audio@trinityhearing.net.


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