Ears may get neglected when it comes to poetry —they're not the window of the soul, and nobody compares them to a summer's day — but we shouldn't forget that, for all their funny-looking glory, ears and their health are extremely important. And there's a bunch of misinformation out there about how to care for them properly and preserve your hearing, ear health and proper wax levels. Odds are, most of what you've heard about how to clean your ears, how to prevent hearing loss, or whether it's OK to pierce your own ears is probably wrong.
Ears are rather like a well-functioning metro systems; you only really notice them when you start to experience serious difficulties with them. That, however, is no excuse to neglect proper ear care — especially because you don't want to have to deal with the products of poor ear care, like ear syringing, hearing loss or explaining to your doctor why you tried to pierce your ears at home and now have a streaming ear infection. (I can guarantee that their expression will be, at best, exasperated.)
So here are five things to never, ever do to your ears. Friends don't let friends go to concerts without earplugs or run around with their headphones turned up so loud that their music can be heard from space.
1. Insert Cotton Swabs
You may look at your packet of cotton swabs and believe they're tailor-made to be pushed into your ear canal and wiggled about in order to remove earwax. Well, I'm sorry to inform you that you're wrong; not only are you wrong about what you should be putting into your ear canal, but you have the exact wrong attitude regarding earwax. Earwax is not your enemy; rather, earwax is needed to help your ears properly function, and clearing it out aggressively is a habit that can go very wrong.
2. Crank Up The Volume On Your Headphones
The idea that "those kids with their headphones will ruin their ears!" turns out to be more than just the ravings of grumpy old-timers. The volume on your headphones can seriously impact your hearing, and it's worth knowing the facts the next time you reach for your iPod to crank up tunes on your way home.
3. Do Ear Candling
Frankly, this sounds to me like one of the least attractive ways possible to spend an evening. But ear candling — the practice of using candles inserted into the ear to "remove" the wax inside — is a widespread practice, despite significant scientific evidence that it does nothing whatsoever to the levels of wax inside the ear.
4. Refuse To Wear Earplugs In Noisy Environments
Yes, I know you might not feel the music in the same way at a concert or a serious EDM night out with earplugs in, but your ears will thank you dearly for it later. There's no punk cred in avoiding ear protection; every rocker I've ever met has intense supplies of ear plugs, and one particularly heavy band recommends that every audience member wears two types of ear protection.
5. Pierce Your Ears At Home
Oh my god do not do this. You may think that poking a disinfected needle through the fleshy bit of your ear (or elsewhere) can't be that bad, but it's a serious risk for several reasons. One is hygiene: it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to completely sterilize everything in your environment for home piercing, which could lead to an infection (which will be highly unpleasant at the least). Even places that give piercings in malls have procedures in place to drastically reduce the risk of infection: they all use sterile single-use piercing guns that can't pass infection from person to person. The Association Of Professional Piercers has very strong guidelines about sterility, equipment and proper materials for piercing; it's not something you should trust to amateurs.
Other potential problems include the fact that home piercers won't be trained in precise positioning to avoid veins and nerves, they might not have access to proper sterile earrings without coatings, and that they won't know what to do if something goes wrong. If you desperately want a piercing, save your money and put yourself on a piercing waiting list; doing it at home isn't worth the problems.
Images: Seth Doyle/ Unsplash, Giphy