How win­ter weather can af­fect hear­ing

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - NEWS - bet­ter­hearingand­bal­ SPE­CIAL TO NWA DEMO­CRAT-GAZETTE

Frosty win­dows, dress­ing in lay­ers, hot drinks, icy roads…some peo­ple wel­come Jack Frost while oth­ers would pre­fer it stayed warm all year. But like it or not, win­ter is upon us here in North­west Arkansas, bring­ing with it cold con­di­tions. Keep­ing healthy in the win­ter is all about know­ing how to take care of your­self–and Bet­ter Hear­ing and Bal­ance wants to re­mind you that in­cludes your hear­ing health.

Cold tem­per­a­tures can ac­tu­ally cause phys­i­cal changes in the ear that can lead to pain, dizzi­ness, ring­ing in the ears, and even hear­ing loss in some cases. Read on to learn what symp­toms you should watch out for, and how to pro­tect your ears in this brac­ing sea­son.

Surfer’s ear

Re­search shows that as tem­per­a­tures drop, the chance of de­vel­op­ing ring­ing in the ears or hear­ing loss in­creases. Why is this so? One of the pri­mary causes of hear­ing loss in cold weather is a con­di­tion known as ex­os­to­sis or more com­monly, “surfer’s ear.”

Ex­os­to­sis is a con­di­tion in which an ab­nor­mal growth forms in the ear canal. It is of­ten a growth of bone on top of an ex­ist­ing bone. The bone which sur­rounds the ear canal thick­ens as the body tries to pro­vide a pro­tec­tive bar­rier to cold wa­ter and wind; this growth can in­ter­fere with the re­cep­tion of sounds as well as the ear’s abil­ity to pro­duce and ex­pel ear­wax. This wax buildup, as well as wa­ter that can be­come trapped by the bony growth, in­crease the risk of de­vel­op­ing in­fec­tions in the ear. Mul­ti­ple ear in­fec­tions are both a sign and symp­tom of ex­os­to­sis.

These rogue bones in the ear have been known to cause pain, ring­ing in the ears tin­ni­tus and hear­ing loss. Although ex­os­to­sis is most com­mon in surfers due to their fre­quent ex­po­sure to cold wa­ter, it can also de­velop in those who do not ad­e­quately pro­tect their ears in very cold, wet weather. The les­son be­ing? On those cold days, don’t for­get your hat!

Hard­ened ear­wax

As well as in­creas­ing the risk of surfer’s ear, ex­tremely cold weather causes ear­wax to har­den, in some cases lead­ing to block­ages. An ear­wax block­age may cause the fol­low­ing symp­toms: ear­ache, a feel­ing of full­ness in the af­fected ear, ring­ing or noises in the ear (tin­ni­tus), di­min­ished hear­ing in the af­fected ear, dizzi­ness, headaches, and in­fec­tions. Peo­ple who wear hear­ing aids are ac­tu­ally at a higher risk of hard­ened ear­wax, as a per­son’s ear will pro­duce more wax when there is a “for­eign ob­ject” in it.

A buildup of ear­wax is both­er­some to say the least, and you might in­stinc­tively want to clean it out with a cot­ton swab–but this is ac­tu­ally the op­po­site of what you should do. At­tempt­ing to clear the wax out this way can re­sult in the block­age be­ing pushed fur­ther into the ear canal, caus­ing even worse symp­toms. Talk to us about safer, doc­tor-ap­proved ways to re­move hard­ened ear­wax.

Cold days are ahead–so bun­dle up and don’t for­get those ear­muffs! If you’ve been strug­gling with block­ages in your ear or dis­com­fort due to cold, visit us at Bet­ter Hear­ing and Bal­ance. Call us at (855) 657-6464 to sched­ule a free con­sul­ta­tion, or visit

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