We all look forward to the winter months when we are surrounded by the soothing sight of powdery snow. Be it having an exhilarating snowball fight with the kids or settling down for a cozy holiday get together, winter brings us so many pleasant memories. We sometimes forget that as fun as the winter activities can be, the harsh, icy winds can be hard on the ears. This is why we need to take care of our ears so that we can preserve our sense of hearing for all our years to come.
Winter time is usually a quiet time in terms of yard work, but there are still some types of machinery that pose a threat to our hearing during winter. These include snow blowers and snowmobiles. Even though these machines make winter months easier by keeping the snow at bay, they can be dangerous for our hearing due to the loud noises they make.
Our ears can tolerate sound levels up to 85dB, beyond which any sound can damage our hearing. Each of these machines that help clear snow have a sound range of above 100dB, which can cause hearing loss. Loss of hearing occurs when the delicate hair follicles within the inner ear are damaged due to loud sounds, whereby they can no longer effectively transmit sounds to our brain. The best way to protect our hearing is to wear earmuffs or earplugs before operating any type of loud machinery.
Hearing loss adversely affects our sense of balance, which is why people with a hearing impairment have a three times higher probability of sustaining a fall than those with normal hearing. This finding was reported in a study conducted at the Johns Hopkins.
The winter months are already tricky when it comes to maintaining our equilibrium, thanks to the icy patches that we may overlook. People with hearing loss have a much higher risk of sustaining injuries from a fall. This happens due to excessive demands on their cognitive abilities that result in strain placed on their brain to make out muffled sounds caused by hearing loss. People with hearing loss need to be exceptionally careful during the winter months to make sure they are safe from injuries due to falling.
The winter months are ideal for bacteria and viruses to thrive since our immune systems tend to be lower during these months. Viral infections are usually on the rise during winter, and we suffer from lower blood circulation which can cause deficiency in blood supply to our ears. Ear infections, or Otitis Media, are most common during winter due to trapped moisture and increase in pathogens. This infection results from blockage of the Eustachian tube due to build up of trapped debris and contaminated ear fluid. Due to the blockage the pressure in the ears may increase, which can cause hearing loss.
We often sustain earaches due to these infections of the ears during winter months. Take a trip to the doctor’s chambers to get them to take a look at your ears and clear out any excessive fluid. They will also be able to prescribe some medication to help heal the infection. Always remember to keep yourself hydrated by increasing your fluid intake. Take some time out to get some physical exercise into your daily routine in the winter to help enhance your blood circulation and keep your immune system healthy.
Needless to say, a major drop in temperature occurs during the winter months. This can cause the ears to take some time to adapt. Excessively low temperatures can cause hardening of the bones within the ear canals to help combat moist and chilly climate. In some cases, the ears may begin to have bony protrusions known as Exostoses, or “surfer’s ears.” These projections of the bone help protect the ears from cold climates, but also limit hearing to an extent since they block sound signals from entering the ears. In extreme cases, these protrusions need surgical intervention. The good news is that this condition is easily avertable by wearing warm and cozy winter wear to protect your ears, such as beanies or woolen scarves.
Winter holidays often means travel time for the whole family. This can be fun, except when you have a cold before your flight! When your nose and ears are blocked due to a cold, flying can be uncomfortable due to fluctuations in the pressure in the air during the flight. In extreme cases, Eustachian tubes that are blocked can rupture part of the ear drum and further exacerbate your cold virus. If possible, avoid flight travel when you are sick since it will worsen your condition and can even infect others in the confined spaces of an airplane. If you absolutely need to travel despite your cold, you can ease your discomfort by taking some over the counter decongestant medication or visit your doctor.
Enjoy your winter months to the fullest by taking a few precautions. By protecting your hearing, you can make sure that you have a blast in those chilly winter months. Simple protective measures go a long way in keeping you and your loved ones happy during the holiday season.
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