Gill Stannard

Monday, June 04, 2007

Realm of the senses - sound

Some people have an incredible fascination with earwax!

Everything you have ever wanted to know about wax on Wikipedia.

The ears are designed to be self-cleaning and more problems arise from trying to deal with the wax inappropriately (including adverse reactions from GP’s syringing the ear), than build up of the wax itself. To encourage the movement of wax outwards, chew. Just moving your jaw does the job. Trying to dredge out wax using a cotton bud and other instruments often impacts the wax deeper into the canal and worsens the problem. It can also cause more serious injuries.

Earwax likely plays a protective role in the ear, including a first line of defence against bacterial infections.

I have been sceptical about ear candles since I first saw them. Other than playing with an exposed naked flame and hot wax, there are increasing reports of other negative reactions from using them. There is serious doubt that the residue on wax found in the candle after use is actually from the ear. An interesting pseudo-scientific experiment debunking ear candling. explains why.

The naturopathic solution: Avoid the temptation to poke or prod, other than gently washing the outermost part of the ear. Try a diet low in dairy, fat, sugar and flour, which may help in cases of excess ear wax. Chew your food more. Use celery or other raw vegetables, rather than gum, for extra chewing.

Tinnitus is a very annoying and potentially permanent ringing in the ears. Other noises and sensations can be experienced such as whooshing, clicking, humming and high pitched sounds. The cause is often described as “a malfunction of the auditory system”, but essentially it is a symptom with a multitude of causes and factors.

Tinnitus is a common side effect to some types of chemotherapy and other medicines, including aspirin. It can also be caused by exposure to loud noises, so use appropriate ear protection at loud concerts.

The Australian Tinnitus Association (NSW) has some good resources, including some examples of the noises themselves (imagine hearing them on a constant loop, 24 hours a day).

I have found osteopathy, especially cranial osteopathy, to be useful in reducing tinnitus. Likewise ginkgo to increase circulation. There is some evidence that B12 can be useful. Most importantly, stress management is key to living with this condition.

Will listening to an MP3 player make you go deaf? It depends on how loud, how long and how often.

…and a bit extra on all things pertaining to the ears

Ear infections

Particularly in childhood, these common infections are well treated naturopathically. A strict no dairy diet, with little or no sugar and flour is the first place to start. Remember to top up calcium intake with sardines and salmon (tinned, eating the bones), nuts and seeds, tahini, hummos, figs and beans. If caught early enough, long term diet change alone can often prevent regular ear infections. Also increase vitamin C, consider using a supplement/tincture of echinacea and thyme and gargle with salty water at the first sign of an ear infection.

Lastly, cherish your ears. Treat them to regular doses of silence. Spend some time really listening, not just hearing, each day.

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