How winter weather can cause hearing problems to worsen

This time of year can be tough on our bodies and it’s no different when it comes to hearing. Ears can be especially sensitive to changes in our environment and in cold weather they can really suffer. You may find that you start to experience hearing problems - or that any existing struggles get worse. So, what are the risks?

  • Developing a condition like Exostosis. This is also known as ‘surfers ear’ and is basically an abnormal growth that forms around the ear canal. Bone grows on bone as the body tries to defend against extreme weather conditions of wind and cold water by essentially growing its own protective layer. There are many ways in which Exostosis can be problematic. For example, it can interfere with the ability to hear and it can also change the way that the ear is able to produce and expel ear wax. Where there are problems expelling ear wax this might become trapped behind the bony growth and increase the risk of multiple ear infections. Exostosis can also be painful and cause tinnitus. If you have Exostosis then you’ll most likely need a surgery called a canaloplasty, as this is not a condition that will simply heal itself. However, you can prevent the problem from arising in the first place by protecting your ears from the elements and wearing a hat.
  • Issues with ear wax. An ear wax blockage is a very common reason for hearing problems - and this can get significantly worse in the cold weather. Very low temperatures tend to make existing ear wax harden and this can cause a wide range of symptoms, from dizziness to tinnitus, to not being able to hear very well. Anyone who wears a hearing aid is automatically more at risk from a build up of ear wax because the ears tend to respond to the presence of a foreign body like a hearing aid by creating more ear wax. So how do you deal with a build up of ear wax safely if it’s affecting your hearing this winter.
    • Be careful how you clean your ears. Your inner ears don’t need to be sparkling clean so don’t make a habit of over cleaning. It’s also important to avoid putting anything into your ears, such as ear buds, as this can cause the wax to become impacted and hard.
    • Try a natural remedy to help expel ear wax. For example, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, baking soda and salt water have all been found to be effective.
    • Use the power of steam. You can try soaking a cloth in very warm water and then holding it over your ear, as this will also help to loosen hard ear wax in winter.
    • See a doctor if you need to. Any draining, ringing in the ears, bleeding or pain mean that it’s time to get some medical help.

Winter weather can be challenging in many ways, including when it comes to the impact that it has on the ears.

Harley Street is the UK's foremost private medical centre which is dedicated to providing high-quality care for your ear, nose, throat, head & neck, and balance-related disorders. Find out more information on how Harley Street ENT can help you here.

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