Rough weather, particularly cold conditions, can present challenges for exposed body parts, particularly the ears. Ears cool down very quickly because they have no protective fat tissue. The nerves in the ear canal run unprotected under the skin and may react with a strong pain impulse to changing temperatures.
In addition, the risk of infection in the ears increases in cold conditions because less blood is circulated. Cold and wind can irritate the ear canal, which often causes pain, while water in the ears can cause inflammation. Also, a cold head may cause cramped muscles in the neck region, which can lead to ear problems like tinnitus.
People with hearing aids should be aware that cold conditions can cause batteries to run down more quickly, and condensation can occur inside the hearing instrument, causing an electronics failure.
Fortunately, the experts at the nonprofit Hear the World Foundation, created by Phonak, offer these ear care do’s and don’ts:
- Do keep your ears warm by wearing a hat, headband, earmuffs or a good ski helmet.
- Don’t put cotton wool in your ears to protect them from the wind. This actually can cause inflammation in the ear canal.
- Do dry your ear canal as well as possible after showering, swimming or using a sauna. With care, you may be able to do this with a hair dryer.
- Don’t neglect an ear infection. See your physician or an ENT specialist. Left untreated, an infection can get worse and cause serious damage.
- Do stick to a healthy diet and do plenty of exercise to stimulate blood circulation to your ears.
- Don’t use hot water to warm up cold ears. Gently massage them instead.
People who wear hearing aids need to remember these simple tips:
- Always have spare batteries available. If batteries get cold, you can warm them for 5 minutes in your closed hand or in a pocket; do NOT use a lighter.
- Never put hearing instruments on a heater.
- Special drying containers, available from hearing care professionals, can prevent damage caused by condensation.
- Water-resistant hearing instruments are less susceptible to damage from condensation.