Most of us get run down with coughs and colds over winter. But, you may not realise the chilly weather could also damage your hearing.
An audiologist warns being out and about in icy temperatures can leave your ears aching and could even temporarily zap your hearing.
Luckily, over-the-counter products help to keep your ears in tip-top shape as temperatures continue to plummet.
“During cold weather, we tend to get an increase in issues with wax hardening in the ear canal,” Paul Jackson, head of audiology at Bayfields Opticians and Audiologists, told Yahoo UK.
“This can cause discomfort and tinnitus. It can also cause, in very severe cases, a loss of hearing.”
Wax traps dust and other small particles, preventing them reaching the ear drum, where they could cause damage.
Usually soft, a drop in temperature can make it hard and less “mobile”.
It can then press against the ear canal, causing pain and even tinnitus.
Tinnitus describes hearing a ringing, buzzing or whooshing sound, with no external source.
A build-up of wax can also “stop sound reaching the middle ear”, leaving you temporarily “deaf”.
And conditions don’t need to be Arctic to have an effect.
“This normally occurs when the temperature drops to around 3°C (37.4°F) or 2°C (35.6°F),” Mr Jackson said.
Temperatures are due to plummet to lows of -2°C (28.4°F) in central Scotland tonight, according to Weather Online. The rest of the UK is expected to reach between 3°C and 6°C (42.8°F).
The good news is cold temperatures very rarely cause lasting damage. There are also simple ways to protect yourself.
“Keep the ears covered,” Mr Jackson said. “We think nothing of wearing gloves or a scarf but covering your ears makes a big difference
“If really cold, wear ear muffs to keep the ear and ear canal warm. It will really help; ears our exposed to extreme temperatures.”
Keeping wax soft with ear drops or even just olive oil can also ward off any issues.
While the bottle in your kitchen cupboard will do the job, Mr Jackson recommends a specially formulated spray.
“Olive oil spray is easier to apply into the ear,” he said. “And the mist is very fine so it doesn’t block the ear”.
Mr Jackson advises using drops or a spray two-to-three times a week when temperatures are particularly icy.
If symptoms fail to clear up after seven-to-10 days, visit a GP or audiologist.
“They can remove any wax build-up, and check for an infection or inflammation,” Mr Jackson said.
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