Man lying down receiving ear candling treatment

Our ears could very well 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. In spite of providing us with one of our most essential senses, we never give our ears, or our hearing, much gratitude or consideration.

That is, until there are problems. Then, we grasp just how important healthy hearing really is—and how we should have figured out proper ear care earlier. The secret is to realize this before the damage is done.

If you desire to avoid issues and safeguard your hearing, avoid these 4 dangerous practices.

1. Ear Candling

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

Here’s how ear candling is carried out. One end of a narrow tube made of cotton and beeswax is inserted into the ear. The other end is set on fire, which purportedly creates a vacuum of negative pressure that draws earwax up into the tube.

Except that it doesn’t, for two reasons.

First of all, the ear candle doesn’t generate negative pressure. As expressed 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 discovered within the ear candle after the procedure. Clinical psychologist Philip Kaushall tested this by burning some ear candles the customary way and burning other candles without inserting them into the ear. The residue was the same for both groups.

Ear candling is also dangerous and is strongly 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 posts, but inserting any foreign object into your ear only forces the earwax against the eardrum, generating an impaction and possibly a ruptured eardrum and hearing loss.

Your earwax consists of advantageous antibacterial and lubricating characteristics, and is organically eliminated by the regular movements of the jaw (from talking and chewing). All that’s required from you is normal showering, or, if you do have problems with excess earwax, a professional cleaning from your hearing professional.

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

3. Listening to excessively loud music

Our ears are just not equipped to handle the loud sounds we’ve discovered how to create. In fact, any sound louder than 85 decibels has the potential to create irreversible hearing loss.

How loud is 85 decibels?

An average 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 produce a comparable output of 100 decibels or greater—all from inside the ear canal. It’s hardly surprising then that this can produce permanent injury.

If you want to conserve your hearing, ensure that you wear earplugs to concerts (and while at work if necessary) and keep 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

Last, we have the troubling fact that people tend to wait nearly ten years from the beginning of symptoms before seeking help for their hearing loss.

That indicates two things: 1) people unnecessarily experience the consequences of hearing loss for ten years, and 2) they make their hearing loss a great deal more difficult to treat.

It’s true that hearing aids are not perfect, but it’s also true that with modern technology, hearing aids are remarkably effective. The degree of hearing you get back will depend on the seriousness of your hearing loss, and seeing that hearing loss tends to become more serious over the years, it’s best to get tested and treated as soon as you notice any symptoms.