Keeping an Eye on Your Ears
One critically important body part that we often overlook are our ears. You almost never hear someone say they’re working on six pack ear lobes do you? In outdoor sports and in everyday life your hearing is one of your most vital senses. On the trail your ears warn you of dangers, when you’re skiing you can detect subtle changes in the snow and on the road hear on-coming traffic.Your ears also help you maintain your sense of balance and most importantly they let you have a pleasant conversation with your fitness partner.
Here are some tips for keeping your ears healthy.
Tip 1 – Keep them clean
Ear wax serves an important function. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties and helps keep your ears clean. However, when wax builds up it can reduce your hearing, cause earaches and infections. Wax build up is more prevalent now because of the popularity of “in-ear” headphones and hearing aides which tend to pack wax into your ear canal. Using cotton swabs like Q-tips to clean your ears is another way wax can get packed into ear canals.
Experts recommend that for most cases, routine cleaning at home is a good way to keep your ears healthy and clear however, If you are experiencing ear aches, dizziness or other more serious ear issues you should consult your doctor.
One method for softening and removing wax build up at home is to use a “bulb” syringe. This method allows you to gently flush the ear canal with warm (body temperature) water. Another method is to use drops of mineral oil, baby oil, or glycerin to effectively soften built up wax in the ear.1
Tip 2 – Protect them
One of the prime ways hearing loss occurs is by prolonged exposure to loud sounds which damage hair cells in the ear canal responsible for detecting sound waves and sending signals to your brain. As a former professional musician, I know first hand the impact loud sounds can have on your hearing. Music isn’t the only culprit though, power tools, chain saws, motorcycles and movie theatres can all contribute to hearing loss.
A good rule of thumb? If you need to shout over something in order to communicate, it’s loud enough to damage your hearing.
The best ways to protect yourself?
- Be aware of situations that are too loud
- Avoid loud situations whenever possible
- Wear earplugs or earmuffs to reduce the volume and filter high damaging frequencies
Tip 3 – Feed them
Another way to keep your ears healthy and help prevent hearing loss is to ensure you’re providing the right nutrients to your body. Certain minerals like potassium, zinc, magnesium and folic acid are known to assist the body and support healthy hearing.
Natural sources of potassium can be found in foods like spinach, tomatoes and bananas. Stock up on folic acid by eating spinach, asparagus and broccoli. Good sources of magnesium include bananas, broccoli and artichokes and zinc can be found in dark meat chicken, oysters, almonds and dark chocolate.
Keeping an eye on your ears is good for your health and something to stay on top of. Clear, healthy hearing is essential in everyday life so remember to, keep your ears clean, protected from loud noises and nourished so they can keep you alert and in touch with all of the amazing sounds around you.
See you outside!
Steve Stearns is an avid outdoorsman and host of the Outside Health and Fitness podcast. He shares practical advice, resources and interviews experts from the world of fitness, nutrition and health. His goal is to help others discover new, fun and effective ways to be naturally fit, healthy and happy.