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Ear Problems and Injuries, Age 12 and Older

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You may be able to prevent ear problems.

  • Teach your children to blow their noses gently. Remember to do this yourself also.
  • Keep soap and shampoo out of the ear canal. These products can cause itching, which can be mistaken for an ear infection because of the need to scratch or pull at the ears.
  • Do not put cotton swabs, bobby pins, or other objects (especially if they are sharp) in the ear canal.
  • Limit your contact with others who have colds, when possible.
  • Protect your ears from sunburn and frostbite.
    • Apply sunscreen to your ears and wear a hat that shades the ears in the summer.
    • Wear a hat that covers the ears in the winter.
  • Limit or avoid exposure to loud noises such as music, power tools, gunshots, and industrial machinery.
  • Wear protective earplugs or earmuffs if you can't avoid loud noises.
    • Avoid the prolonged use of earplugs. They can cause irritation, itching, and can plug the ear with wax.
    • Do not use wadded-up tissue or cotton balls. These do not protect adequately against loud noises (especially the more dangerous high frequencies) and they may become lodged in the ear canal.
  • Avoid exposing children to cigarette smoke, which is linked with more frequent ear infections. If you smoke and are unable to stop, smoke outside, away from children.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking irritates the mucous membranes that line the nose, sinuses, and lungs, and it may contribute to inflammation or infection of the ear. See the topic Quitting Smoking.
  • If ear pain appears to be related to a problem with your jaw, see the topic Temporomandibular (TM) Disorders for tips on relaxing the muscles in this area.
  • Take good care of your teeth. Daily brushing and flossing, along with regular dental checkups, helps prevent tooth decay, infections, and other dental problems that can lead to referred ear pain.
  • If you wear hearing aids, be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendations carefully for cleaning and storing them.
  • For tips on how to prevent swimmer's ear, see the topic Ear Canal Problems (Swimmer's Ear).

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 04, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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