It is fascinating to dive into the various ways the 5 primary senses – sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell – interact with each other. Not least the way the others can sometimes feel heightened when one becomes impaired. We rely on our hearing in particular in all sorts of ways, but there are many factors that can weaken it over time and eventually lead to deafness.
In today’s article, we will discuss 5 fascinating facts about our sense of hearing, which we hope will press home the value of maintaining good health and hygiene practices – including the use of earplugs to safeguard against harmful levels of noise.
Fact # 1: Your ears are responsible for your balance.
Did you know your ears help to maintain balance throughout the rest of your body? With that in mind, a build-up of excess wax in the ear canal not only interferes with your ability to perceive outside noise, it can also cause dizziness and disorientation, which throw off our balance. Good ear hygiene is usually enough to keep this problem at bay, but if you are at all worried about a possible build-up of wax, don’t hesitate to book a professional cleaning.
Fact # 2: Our diet can affect our hearing
Our sense of taste and hearing are directly linked by a facial nerve that connects the taste buds and ganglia to the brain via the middle ear. While this doesn’t mean that sounds are likely to have much influence on the taste of our food, it does mean there are certain foods that support healthy hearing over others.
In terms of overall bodily function, it is best to limit our intake of alcohol, salt, and sugar, and reach for natural produce over processed goods. Hearing is also supported by swapping out bad (saturated) fats in favor of good (unsaturated) fats, which are much better at fueling the body’s vital functions and fighting off disease. Fish, seafood, avocados, and nuts are all great sources of these good fats.
It is always wise to try and up your daily intake of fruit and vegetables, with the likes of bananas, broccoli, and oranges all being great choices. But health is all about balance, and you don’t have to completely deprive yourself of treats – in fact, dark chocolate is actually thought to help support healthy hearing!
While a hearty, balanced diet should provide you with all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs, if you are at all concerned about a shortfall or deficiency in certain areas, supplements can often give you just the boost you need. Folic acid, omega-3 acids, zinc, potassium, magnesium and vitamins C and E are particularly good to be aware of.
Fact # 3: Your ears are always listening
Our ears are always working hard to keep us safe. Even during deepest sleep, they remain alert to potential danger, in case we need to wake up. Though this is important (the need to hear fire alarms, etc.) it does mean those of us with particularly sensitive hearing can be very easily disturbed at night, waking at the slightest sound.
With poor quality sleep leading to all sorts of physical and mental strain, it is worth having a set of earplugs to hand to combat this. They can help guard against many frustrating situations: from street noise, to rowdy neighbors, and even snoring partners! Whenever you need to cut yourself off from the world and get some proper rest, you can rely on earplugs.
The good news is there are many types to choose from now, meaning everyone can get the style and fit that suits their needs best; whether disposable, reusable, moldable, or custom-made.
Fact # 4: Your ears are the size of a penny
Given how much we rely on our hearing – and how sensitive it can be to the world around us – it is remarkable to consider that the three key components that control the functioning of our middle ear can all fit comfortably on a single coin. Indeed, the smallest bone in the human body – the stapes – is found here, responsible for conducting sound vibrations to the inner ear.
This is also why hearing aid designs are increasingly discreet; these tiny devices being able to help us hear at different frequencies. That said, it is always best to avoid developing hearing problems in the first place if we can, by utilizing the protective power of earplugs in key areas of our day-to-day lives.
● At home
Made-to-measure plugs offer the best standard of fit, but there are all sorts of products to choose from depending on your needs and budget.
Fact # 5: Cotton buds can cause more harm than good
Cotton buds are a mainstay of many medicine cabinets, often called upon to uphold good ear hygiene. Unfortunately, many people have been unwittingly misusing them, causing rather than preventing hearing problems. Instead of clearing the ear of excess wax as many believe, the buds can actually push it deeper into our ear, compacting it.
Remember, the ears are largely self-cleaning, and they actually require some wax! Our bodies produce it to stop dust and bacteria from entering our inner ears and causing infection, so constantly trying to remove it all may not be the best move anyway.
But what should you do if you are worried about a build-up of too much wax? What if you are concerned that improper use of cotton buds has compacted wax deep within your ear, muffling your sense of hearing? Well, there are at least two solutions that can be of great help when the early signs of hearing impairment start to kick in. You can buy sprays and cleaning solutions from pharmacies that help to flush out the ear, or, in more advanced cases, you can consult an ENT specialist to request a professional deep clean.
Aside from compacting wax, pushing earbuds too deep into the ear can also cause damage to the eardrum itself; yet more reason to use them with caution. As more people realize the risks of such a seemingly harmless product, and make the switch to only using them to clean the outer parts of the ear, hopefully we can see a marked fall in the number of people suffering from avoidable hearing loss.