FAQs about Ear Health
Written By: Emma Squillace
From babies getting ear infections to adults losing their hearing, our ears are prone to many potential health issues. Not only is the structure of ears delicate, but we regularly encounter loud noises, water, bacteria, and other threats to our ear health. There are a few questions we get a lot as ENT (ear, nose, and throat) experts. Today we’ll highlight a few of them and give you the science behind these common health questions.
Can wearing earbuds damage my ears?
Yes. Wearing earbuds to listen to music delivers sound extremely close to your eardrums. While regular headphones can be damaging to ears also, earbuds have even more potential for harm because they sit inside the ear. This means if music is set to play at a certain volume, it can reach the eardrum at 6 to 9 decibels higher, compared to the music not being heard on earbuds. Kids and teens should be extra careful, especially since teens may listen to hours of music or movies with earbuds. Headphones that sit outside the ears, specifically those that are noise-cancelling headphones, can be on the safer side. With noise-cancelling headphones, some of the exterior noise is blocked, which means the music volume can be kept lower.
In general, limit the amount of time you wear earbuds, and keep the volume at a low to moderate level. Excess noise can lead to hearing loss, which is one of the most common physical disorders in the United States. Because hearing loss is not noticeable right away in many cases, teens may not know until years later that they were damaging their hearing with loud music listened to with earbuds.
Why don’t adults get as many ear infections as kids?
Adults get colds and the flu often, but you do not hear about adults getting ear infections very much. Why is this? We know young children get diagnosed with ear infections frequently. One reason adults do not get as many ear infections is their eustachian tubes (tubes connecting the middle ear to the back of the nose area) are longer. This makes it harder for bacteria to travel through the tubes. In younger children the eustachian tubes are not only short, but they also lie in a more horizontal position. Additionally, adults have more well-developed immune systems in many cases, which makes it easier for them to fight off potential infections.
Is “swimmer’s ear” actually caused by swimming?
Swimmer’s ear is an appropriate name, since this condition can be caused by swimming. While swimmers are most often the ones who get swimmer’s ear, this condition can also be caused by putting fingers in the ear, or foreign objects. Swimmer’s ear is the informal name for a conditional called otitis externa. A red, swollen, infected ear canal is the most common sign of this condition, and is often accompanied by itching, swelling, or pain. Excess water, or a foreign object, can create an environment in the ear that leads to an infection. In many cases, swimmer’s ear is treated with antibiotic drops or oral antibiotics.
Trouble hearing, dizziness, and pain are all signs of potential ear problems. Some ear problems clear themselves up in days, and some may last for weeks – and can even lead to permanent ear damage. At West Medical, our expert ENT (ear, nose, and throat) team can diagnose and treat a wide range of ear issues. Please reach out to us if you have been struggling with problems related to your ears or your hearing. We can be reached at (855) 690-0565.