Hearing is a large part of our daily life, making ear health very important. With hearing loss affecting nearly one-third of adults aged 61 to 70, and more than 80 percent of those older than age 85, it is important to establish good ear hygiene and health early on, and see a doctor if problems arise.

The ear is made up of three parts: the outer, the middle and the inner ear. Each part serves a function and plays a role in one’s hearing. At a young age, there are 30,000 to 40,000 microscopic hair cells in the ear, which help to catch sound and hear it. But as we age, these cells decrease, which can lead to hearing loss.

But hearing loss is not entirely due to the reduction of microscopic hair cells. Dr. Shui-Lan Lee, an On Lok audiologist, says there are many components in the ear that may cause hearing loss. These can include otitis media (infection located in the middle ears), otosclerosis (hardening of the ear bones), or ruptured eardrums. “To treat a patient’s hearing loss, the whole ear should be analyzed. If the eardrum is ruptured, some treatments can be tried to help the eardrum heal. If an ear is inflamed it can lead to hearing loss, but we can treat it with anti-inflammatory drugs, or drop medicine into the ear.”

As hearing loss occurs with age, it is necessary to assess the ear to determine where the problems lie. “If it is a problem outer ear and middle ear, it is recommended a patient go to an Otorhinolaryngology (ENT) doctor,” says. Dr. Lee. “A hearing aid may be needed, and there are many kinds on the market today. If your hearing is very poor, you may use a longer and deeper ear canal. If you like multi-function, there are some more expensive and more advanced ones that can be connected to the phone with Bluetooth.” Dr. Lee also points out that there are smaller earphones, but the batteries are also small and difficult to manage.

Lastly, when it comes to ear hygiene, people always consider that ear wax is not good for the body. While ear wax build up could affect hearing, Dr. Lee says ear wax is actually beneficial to ear health. It helps lubricate and prevent dust from entering the ear. However, she advises to never to attempt to clear out earwax as you may cause inflammation of the ear or other damage. If it doesn't affect you normally, you don't need to worry about it. Or, if it is an issue, seek medical attention for cleaning if necessary.

On Lok PACE participants have ear care and audiologist visits as part of their healthcare. For more information about On Lok PACE, call 855-973-1110.

Source: World Journal, November 2021