When the weather outside is frightful, make sure to dress appropriately and think layers. Our bodies strive to maintain a core temperature of around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and being in a cold environment for extended periods of time interferes with that.
The body uses several mechanisms to retain heat when faced with cold temperatures. First, it puts the brakes on to conserve energy and heat. Our nervous system slows so the impulses that control our muscle contractions slow down as well. Second, the body will use shivering as an attempt to generate heat. Shivering occurs when our muscles contract and relax rapidly. Finally, cold weather causes our blood vessels to constrict resulting in restricted blood flow. In our body’s constant attempt to maintain a warm core, our peripheral areas receive less blood flow leaving our fingers, toes, hands, nose, and ears to feel the first signs of cold discomfort.
Anyone who lives in a cold climate has experienced the pain and redness of cold ears, and you know it does not take long to happen. Our ears are extremities and they also lack a layer of fat which means they cool down fast and feel nerve pain acutely. The best solution is preventative – always wear earmuffs, hats or ear-covering headbands when you go out in the cold and limit cold-weather exposure. Additional measures include drying your ear canals thoroughly after bathing, sticking to a healthy diet, staying active through exercise to stimulate blood circulation, and gently massaging your ears when they get cold.
In general, everyone should pay attention to their ear health in the colder months, especially with the increase in colds, the flu, and ear infections during this time. For people with hearing devices, however, there are some extra precautions to keep in mind.
Protecting Hearing Devices from the Cold
- The cold weather may cause your hearing aid batteries to drain faster. Keep a spare with you if you will be out for a long time. Keep your spare batteries in a warm place, if possible. Batteries can be warmed in your closed hand for a few minutes before use if they get cold.
- Only use drying containers made for hearing devices. Do not use heaters, fireplaces, or hair dryers to dry your hearing aids.
- Water-resistant hearing instruments can handle condensation better, so consider investing in them if you live in a cold or wet climate.
- Pay attention to temperature fluctuations. Going from the cold air to a warm car back to the cold air and then to a warm room can cause condensation which is bad for hearing aids. Remove the hearing aid and dry the ear canal as often as needed.
- Never stick anything in the ears to keep them warm. You may damage the hearing aid and cause inflammation in the ear canal.
Hearing aids are technological devices, just like smartphones, so use the same precautions when you’re out in the cold and wet elements. Schedule an appointment with us to discuss protecting your hearing health in the winter and throughout the year.