Personal Care and Hygiene - Ears
The ears consist of three parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. In terms of hygiene, people need only be concerned with the outer ear. The outer ear consists of the pinna, the part that is visible, and the ear canal that leads toward the eardrum that separates the outer ear from the middle and inner ear.
The ear canal is self-cleaning. Wax is secreted into the ear canal by glands that are found in the skin of the canal. This wax and other particles, such as dust, travel down the ear canal and are washed away or fall out to make room for new wax being made. It is not necessary to use cotton swabs to clean the ear canal. In fact, using them can harm the ear by pushing wax toward the eardrum, where it can get stuck and cause blockage or an ear infection.
While cleaning the pinna and behind the ear is good hygiene, the rest of the ear will usually take care of itself.
Removing Excess Earwax
When earwax is pushed toward the eardrum, or when an abnormal amount of wax is produced in the ear canal, sometimes it's necessary for people to have the wax removed by a doctor. Excessive earwax can affect hearing and feel very uncomfortable. A doctor will most likely perform ear irrigation in these cases. Ear irrigation is a process in which warm water is gently flushed into the ear canal so that the earwax can dislodge and rinse away with the water.
Other times, a doctor may use different methods of earwax removal. These include using a blunt instrument that has a loop on the end. This instrument is carefully inserted into the ear canal to remove the wax. Another method involves using a vacuum that is inserted just inside the ear canal and then sucks out the excess wax.
Each year, millions of Americans go to their dentists seeking whiter, brighter smiles. Because tooth-whiteners contain peroxide, an antiseptic, whitening is safest when it is done under the direction of a dentist rather than purchasing an over-thecounter whitening kit.
Typically, teeth are whitened by a dentist using a hydrogen-peroxide solution in a customfitted mouthguard that the patient wears while sleeping. It can take anywhere from one to two weeks to achieve the desired shade of whiteness. How white a person's teeth get, however, depends upon the shade the teeth are when bleaching is begun. Teeth with a yellow tone will bleach whiter than those with a grayish tone.
There are other methods to lighten a person's teeth, which include laser-whitening and the use of other cosmetic procedures such as porcelain veneers or dental bonding.
The medical term for this common ear infection is external otitis. It earned its nickname because it occurs most often during the summer, when swimming is a common activity for people. Bacteria that infect the ear canal are the main cause of swimmer's ear. If there is excessive wax lingering in the ear canal, it can trap water in the ear canal. This trapped water will soften the skin in the ear canal, which makes it more vulnerable to bacteria.
When bacteria cause an infection, the ear may swell, itch, and be painful to the touch. There may also be a discharge from the ear canal, which will affect a person's hearing. The ear canal itself will be red and swollen. For treatment, a doctor will remove the infected wax and any other particles in the ear canal, and then prescribe medicine to treat the infection.
Having healthy ears means more than just keeping them clean. It also means caring for one's hearing. According to the House Ear Institute, about 10 percent of people in the United States suffer from some type of hearing loss. The most common cause of hearing loss is loud noise. Certain types of noises, such as gunfire or firecrackers that explode near an ear, can do sudden damage to hearing. Other types of noise, such as lawn mowers and vacuum cleaners, cause damage over a longer period of time.
Ear candling is an alternative method of removing earwax that is practiced by some holistic healers. This method can be traced back to the Hopi Indians, a tribe located in North America. Ear candling is a process in which the unlit end of a beeswax candle is put over the opening of the ear canal. By covering the opening of the ear canal, a vacuum (an empty space with no air) is created between the opening and the eardrum at the end of the canal. When the candle is lit, the warmth of the candle loosens the earwax, and because the wax has no where to fall in the vacuum, it is drawn out toward the flame and collects at the bottom of the candle.
Most medical doctors do not approve of ear candling and believe it does not offer any benefits to the patient. Ear candling should not be done alone or without a skilled professional who is familiar with the procedure. It's important to check out the background and references of any healer who performs this procedure before having it done.
The institute has researched hearing loss among young people and found that there is more hearing loss among young people today than there was fifteen years ago. Loud music and the common use of earphones with portable radios and CD players probably have contributed to this hearing loss. Also, most live rock concerts have volumes that reach damaging levels. Wearing earplugs to concerts can help prevent hearing loss. Essentially, any situation in which a person must shout to be heard means it's too loud and hearing could be damaged. While many people like loud music, the smart thing to do is turn down the volume.