With snowfall and freezing temperatures already making an appearance in November, it’s safe to say that winter weather is upon us! We all know to bundle up and be prepared before venturing out into the cold - but do your layers and layers of sweaters and coats include anything that sufficiently protects your ears?
Take it from the ear doctors at Francis Audiology: winter weather can have serious effects on your ear health as your body responds to low temperatures. Here are just some of the potential health risks that make protecting your ears vital throughout the cold weather seasons:
1. Ear Wax Hardens More Quickly
When your ears are exposed to the cold, they have several natural responses designed to protect themselves from damage. One of these lines of defense is hardening ear wax, which can lead to hearing problems if left uncleaned. In severe and repetitive cases of exposure, you can even experience exostosis (also known as surfer’s ear), a condition in which abnormal bony growths appear to form a barrier between your ear canal and the cold. Exostosis can also cause symptoms of ear wax build up as these growths narrow the ear canal, trapping ear wax inside. Remember: improper cleaning techniques can easily cause damage to your ear canal. Ear wax removal should always be performed by a professional.
2. Meniere’s Disease Symptoms May Worsen
Affecting around 615,000 people in the United States, Meniere’s disease is somewhat rare - but if you’ve been diagnosed, it’s important to understand the effects of cold weather on your condition and your life during the wintertime. As an inner ear condition, Meniere’s disease symptoms include chronic occurrences of vertigo, tinnitus and progressive hearing loss. Studies show that low temperatures significantly increase these episodes, making the winter months an important time to stay on top of your therapy. Treatment for Meniere’s disease is an ongoing, multifaceted process - be sure to check in with your ear specialist and/or neurologist to develop a plan to combat these exacerbated symptoms.
3. Risk of Ear Infections Increases
Ear infections are often linked to other bacterial illnesses, especially respiratory ailments like a cold or the flu. That being the case, instances of ear infection rise when these related illnesses increase as well - including during the winter months. Protecting yourself against colds and the flu with a healthy diet, plenty of warm clothing, and excellent hygiene practices can also help protect you from an ear infection.
4. Hearing Aids Are Vulnerable to Cold
If you wear a hearing aid, it’s important to know that cold weather can also have a negative impact on your device. Many hearing aid batteries are made out of zinc, which is sensitive to temperature changes and prone to last for a shorter period in the cold. These hearing aids are also sensitive to humidity, so precipitation and sweat generated while wearing your warmest clothing can cause electrical issues. If you’re experiencing any problems with your hearing aid, it’s time to consult your audiologist for new batteries, or possibly a hearing aid repair.
Keeping your ears covered and your body healthy during the winter months is always your first line of defense against the cold, but for those with specific conditions or concerns about their ear health, a trip to your ear doctor should be as routine as holiday decorating once temperatures begin to drop!
Ready to schedule your winter audiologist appointment? Let us know! You can request an appointment from us online or contact us at 412-123-3456. We can help you keep your ears healthy and clean, just in time for the holidays!