The weather has taken a turn for the worse, with pretty cold conditions across most of the country at the moment. We thought this advice might be useful to help protect our hearing.
Why are ears more sensitive than other parts of the body?
Our ears cool down very quickly in cold conditions because they have no protective fat tissue. The nerves in the ear canal run unprotected under the skin and may react with a strong pain impulse to changing temperatures. The skin on the ears seems impervious to the cold at first. We often don’t notice any pain or chilling sensation until it is too late.
Risks for the ears
The risk of infection in the ears increases in cold conditions, as less blood is circulated in the ears. A cold head may cause cramped muscles in the neck region. Sometimes, a continuous tension of the muscles in the atlantoaxial joint can lead to ear problems like tinnitus. Cold and wind can irritate the ear canal, which often causes pain in the outer part of the ear. Water in the ears can easily cause inflammation in cold conditions. Frostbite can quickly occur in the ears in sub-zero temperatures.
Risks for hearing instrument users
Cold conditions can reduce the battery capacity resulting in a diminished battery life of the hearing instrument. If the temperature of the hearing instrument batteries falls below zero degrees Celsius, they can fail completely. Condensation can occur inside the hearing instrument during the transition from cold to warm conditions. These tiny drops of water can get into the electronics and cause a failure.
Experts’ tips for the cold season
- Keep your ears warm during cold periods (by wearing a hat, headband, earmuffs or a good ski helmet).
- Do not put cotton wool in your ears to protect them from the cold wind. It may cause inflammation in the ear canal.
- After taking a shower or going swimming, you should dry your ear canal before going out into the cold.
- If you have an ear infection, you should consult your physician or an ENT specialist. Ear infections that are left untreated can get worse and cause even more damage.
- Minor damage to the pinna, the outer part of the ear, due to cold conditions may be painful, but in most cases this will go away by itself if you stay in a normal heated room. Gently massaging the ears can help warm them up again. Never use hot water to warm up your ears!
- In severe cases of frostbite, you should consult a physician without delay.
- You should remove any earrings if you are spending long periods of time in the cold. Metal conducts cold quickly and can rapidly cool down any parts of the body that come into contact with it.
Special tips for hearing AID users
- If you are a hearing instrument user, it is still important to keep your ears and hearing instruments warm in cold conditions: hats and headbands, etc. help prevent the batteries from cooling down.
- Hearing instrument users should always have spare batteries available in the winter.
- Carry spare batteries in the pocket of your pants, your body heat will keep them at an optimal temperature.
- You should never put hearing instruments on a heater.
- Special drying containers, available from hearing care professionals, can prevent dam-age caused by condensation.
- Water-resistant hearing instruments are less susceptible to damage from condensation.
So wrap up good and warm and look after your ears. And roll on Spring!