In this guest post by the people at Earpiece Online who supply radio earpieces to the military and security industry, we explore the age-old question. Should anything smaller than your elbow go in your lug hole? Without further adieu, let's hand you over to them.
The old phrase “never put anything smaller than your elbow into your ear” is actually good advice for us all.
“But wait”, you might be saying, “I can’t fit my elbow into my ear!”
Well, that’s actually a good thing. You see the ear really is an amazing organ. It is precise, efficient, almost entirely self-cleaning and houses the three smallest bones in the human body (the malleus, incus & stapes, in case you wondered).
Earwax (properly known as cerumen) is a sticky, partially antibacterial substance that keeps the inner ear safe from dirt, harmful microorganisms and anything else that could cause an infection. When its job is done, earwax simply gets dislodged while you talk or chew. See? Amazing!
However, when you start poking around in your ear, say with your pinkie finger, the corner of a towel, a cotton bud or anything else ‘sub-elbow’ in size, you run the risk of pushing the wax further into your ear, where it congeals, hardens and ultimately blocks the ear.
Although this condition (known as impaction which you can see in the image), usually sorts itself out over time, it can have a number of negative effects, including ear infection, temporary hearing loss, damage to the inner ear, tinnitus (or ‘ringing in the ears’) and much more besides.
If it helps, start thinking of your ear as the end of a little production line. Epithelial cells migrate away from the eardrum and down the ear canal. As they go, these cells escort your old earwax and anything it has caught out of your ear. This process occurs at a rate of roughly 0.05mm a day (about the same speed your fingernails grow).
Once that cotton bud, paperclip or pinkie finger turns up and starts rummaging around, it effectively blocks the end of the production line. The rest of the line carries on regardless and you’re left with a big pile of earwax that is simply being added to and added to over consecutive days.
Of course, vibrations struggle to get through what is now a gargantuan wall of wax, which in turn affects hearing.
So you will now hopefully agree, if it is smaller than your elbow, it has no business being in your ear.
If you’re wondering how you can clean your ears, the short answer is that you shouldn’t, as ears are self-cleaning. However, if needs be, waxy build-up can be cleared with olive oil, or a couple of drops of a 50/50 water/white vinegar solution. A doctor can also provide you with a softening agent (such as hydrogen peroxide) if needed.
If you have an excess of wax on your outer ear, try to wipe it away as carefully as possible. Be delicate and avoid venturing further into the ear than necessary. Even this is inadvisable, though it may be required from time to time for the purposes of appearance and hygiene.
Like the rest of the human body, our ears are absolutely mind blowing, so you should look after them and let them keep doing their job.
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