Ear care

Ever heard of Q-tips? I only became aware of their existence yesterday. At least by that name. On this side of the Atlantic, we call them earbuds. The internet has very many uses for them, from helping collars stay straight to cleaning the grooves in the sole of your shoe.

Granted, some of the uses listed are beyond my intellectual jurisdiction( read applying lipstick with precision & building toy arrows and bows) and I will probably never put them to practice. However, something that stands out is that none of these earbud gurus mention putting them in the ear.

Some concerned manufacturers even include the legend: Do not put swab into ear. (I have never seen that either). All my life I have seen people use cotton swabs to clean their ears. They seem to do a good job too, judging by their appearance after a trip down the auditory labyrinth.

Then all of a sudden people around me stopped using them. My dad, a hygiene ambassador, stopped buying them. My roommate, who has evolved sharp eyesight to spot dirt & long appendages to reach out & get rid of the dirt swiftly, also expressed his fear of “earbuds”. This was after using the swabs to keep his ears spic consistently for 2 years.

To use a favorite vocabulary of my former deputy principal in high school, it would have been foolhardy of me not to notice a pattern here. Two epitomes of all things antiseptic do not simply discard trusted tools to keep up with trends. A little digging in and outside the internet revealed some frightful facts. Gird your loins.

The ear is rich in nerve endings, meaning it is very sensitive to any visitors. A physiology lecturer once told us to keep our romantic forays out of the ear because stimulating it with cotton swabs can send a surge of excitement that could trigger a heart attack in susceptible partners.

Ears also contain eardrums that vibrate to transmit what we hear to the brain for interpretation. Our keen auditory sense is borne of the extra delicate membranes of the eardrum. They can be easily perforated by cotton swabs. Easily. From there you will experience an irritating pain deep inside the ear, as well as tinnitus(I heard someone call it tintina?). A non-ending, piercing sound that never stops. It’s like having to carry torn bass speakers in your ear.

The antiseptic demagogues were also onto something. The ear, much like any other organ, is not defenseless. That ear wax that unmistakeably looks like dirt is actually your friend. First of all, it is produced by the ear. Secondly, it is all gooey and sticky to trap foreign objects, bacteria, and dust. It also has antiseptic(pun intended) compounds that are harsh on viruses, fungi & bacteria.

Once the wax has rounded off the bad guys, it moves along aided by the funnel shape of the ear, dries out, detaches, and falls off or you wash it off when taking a shower. Your terminus ad quem is as far as your index finger can go. Be sure to cushion your finger with a wet piece of cloth/face towel to avoid injuring yourself with your nails when cleaning.

Any prodding you do with a thinner object that can reach further down the ear canal is actually counterproductive because it pushes the wax further back into the ear. Nature doesn’t always need that much of our help, capisce?

In case the wax is overproduced (we are all special in our own ways), reach not for the Q tip. Doctors have solvents that can dissolve the excess wax and make candles out of it. Not really. They will just rid you of the social eyesore. If you are nice, they could even teach you how to make the magic fluid yourself.

Ear wax also keeps the auditory channels from drying and becoming flaky. I don’t know what dry ears feel like, but they feel fine when they are supple. I like fine just fine. I bet you do too.

Who knew ear hygiene could generate such a lengthy article? Well, the more you look into nature, the more you realize nothing really is that obvious, let alone logical. Our reasoning capacity is a very useful tool for finding out how to keep us in top form…and here at the office, we like exercising our thinking capacity. So sit back, relax and let us bring the information to your screen.

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