The strange relationship between winter and hearing loss

winter hearing lossThere are different causes of hearing loss including genetic causes, enduring loud noises over a period of time, damage to the ear, and of course, aging. But did you ever think that the colder weather you experience in the winter could impact your hearing? Well, according to research findings, it can.

When the temperature drops, the risk of ringing in the ears and hearing loss increases. This is because there is a higher risk of rogue bones growing in the ear canal along with hardening of ear wax.


Bone growth in the ear canal is known as surfer’s ear because this condition is fairly common among those who surf, as they spend a lot of time in colder water. This condition forms on the top of existing bone in the ears and travels down the canal to the ear drum. The condition can potentially lead to hearing loss and also results in constant pain and ringing in the ears.

Dr. Roger Henderson explained, “In severe cases, cold weather can cause abnormal bone growths within the ear canal, known as ‘exostosis.’ This is the body’s way of attempting to protect the ears by creating a barrier against the cold. Exostosis can constrict the ear canal, contributing to increased ear wax build-up as the ear can no longer expel earwax effectively. This can be heightened in cold weather as wax can harden when ears are exposed to low temperatures, making ears more likely to become blocked.”

Along with contributing to surfer’s ear, colder weather hardens earwax, which can result in a blockage. In some cases, the hardened wax can trigger pain along with reducing hearing.

Individuals who use hearing aids are at a much higher risk for hardening earwax because having a “foreign object” in the ear causes it to produce more wax. When wax builds up in the ear, it can lead to infections, earaches, headaches, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus).


Although many of us would simply stick a cotton swab in the ear to remove wax, this is highly dangerous. You can actually push the wax further in, causing more of a blockage. If wax is your problem. there are much safer ways to remove it.

Tips to remove earwax safely

The guidelines for ear care were published in Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery outlining the dangers of excessive earwax removal. Here’s what the new guidelines entail:

  • Avoid overcleaning as it can irritate the ear canal and even cause an infection.
  • Don’t stick objects in your ear. Use of cotton swabs, hair pins, and toothpicks can cause a cut in the ear canal, a hole in the eardrum, or even dislocation of the hearing bones, leading to problems such as dizziness, ringing in the ears, and hearing loss.
  • Never use “ear candles.” There is no evidence demonstrating that this practice can remove impacted earwax. On the other hand, candling might damage the ear canal and eardrum.
  • See the doctor if you’re experiencing hearing loss, ear fullness, drainage, bleeding, or ear pain.
  • Put a few drops of warm olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt water, baking soda, or even hydrogen peroxide in the ear. You simply put the solution in your ear and lay on the opposite side of the affected ear, so the liquid can really get in. After about 10 minutes, rinse the ear and ensure you dry it properly. In a few days, this will soften the wax to the point where it begins to come out on its own—or a doctor can flush it out—without too much pain.
  • Soak a napkin or cloth in hot water, allowing it to absorb. Place this warm, damp napkin in the cup and hold it over the ear. The steam will provide heat to the ears and soften up any hard wax.
  • You can place a hot pack or warm towel over the ear area for pain relief.

Related: Temporary hearing loss (temporary threshold shift): Causes and treatments


Related Reading:

The real cause of hearing loss uncovered

Unilateral hearing loss (hearing loss in one ear) in adults: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

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