Managing Meniere’s Disease: Taking Care of Your Ears

When we think of taking care of our ears, we typically think of the same old advice: wash your ears, avoid loud noises, and don’t stick cotton swabs in your ears.  While we agree with the advice, do we really follow it?  The last I knew, Q-tips are still readily available at your local drug store.

The saying, “Never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear,” has been around for quite a while.  In general people don’t shove random things into their ears but there does come that time when there is something in there that can you mad.  That something is usually cerumen (ear wax) and is usually when a finger or swab finds its way into our ear. So if you can’t put fingers, cotton swabs or elbows in your ears, how do you get the wax out?

Cleaning Your Ears

The ear is a well designed instrument that does a pretty good job of getting rid of wax on its own but there comes the occasional time when the owner must take action.  The accepted method of wax removal consists of three steps

  1. Soften the wax. This consists of putting a few drops of baby oil, mineral oil, or commercial ear drops into your ears.  Also used is hydrogen peroxide.  Often you can hear bubbling during this step as the ear drops are working away to soften up the wax.
  2. Follow the softening with irrigation of the ear canal.  Gently fill your ear with a mixture of warm water and white vinegar (equal parts).
  3. Drain out liquid and debris.  Tip your head with the involved ear down.  Let all the fluid flow out.

If this doesn’t work.  You may need to go to your ear doctor and have him or her clean out your ears through irrigation or suction.  Do not irrigate your ears if you have a punctured eardrum, suffer from diabetes, or have a tube in your ear.  Also, the House Ear Institute and House Clinic discourages the use of ear candles.  I have tried them and can honestly state that I am not a big fan of ear candles.  If you do happen to suck any wax out of your ear, it will quickly get replaced with ash from the candle itself.

Protection From Noise

The second big action for you in taking care of your ears is to avoid loud noises.  The obvious noises are easy to identify: rock concerts, jackhammers, and  rocket launches.  There are other environments that we may find ourselves in that are noisier than we may realize. With two kids in school, I have found myself in a number of situations that involve lots of people.  With lots of people, comes lots of noise.  This includes before events, during events and after events.  This doesn’t matter if the event is a sporting event or a music concert, the noise level is always high.    These are not events that you can avoid but you can protect your ears.  I keep earplugs in my car and coat pockets so I always have some ear protection near by. I find the silicon ear plugs the most effective.

Another place with high noise levels is in airplanes. I frequently travel by plane and always take my earplugs with me. In a pressurized cabin, the volume of crying babies and coughing travelers is amplified.  The thrust reversal that a plane executes on touchdown to slow the plane is extremely noisy and you need to protect you ears from noise of that magnitude.

This table can give you a idea of the sound level of different noise sources.

Item Sound Level
threshold of audibility 0 decibels
whisper 20 decibels
vacuum cleaner 65 decibels
lawnmower 90 decibels
chainsaw 100 decibels
rock concert 110 decibels
gunshot 140 decibels

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed guidelines for how long you can be exposed to noises of different levels.

Sound Level Safe Listening Time
85 decibels 8 hours
88 decibels 4 hours
91 decibels 2 hours
94 decibels 1 hour
97 decibels 30 minutes
100 decibels 15 minutes
103 decibels 7.5 minutes
106 decibels 3.75 minutes

A big contributor to tinnitus is exposure to loud noises so learn to avoid those noisy situations.  Take care of your ears and they will take care of you.   No, not really but life is much better with fully functional ears.