Ringing Ears? Blame the Cold Weather!

Freezing your ears in a snowstorm is painful enough, but it turns out that exposing your ears to severe cold can actually lead to tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, and even hearing loss.

When your ears are too cold, the body will try to protect itself from frostbite. Preventing the cold from spreading can sometimes cause abnormal bone growths in the inner ear. These growths make it difficult for sound to travel through the ear and are also more likely to trap earwax.

Clinically referred to as exostosis, this condition is known to cause mild tinnitus and hearing loss. Relatively common among surfers who spend time in cold waters, it has earned the more popular nickname, “surfer’s ear.” Extreme cases may require a surgical procedure called canalplasty, which attempts to open the ear canal and remove any excess growths.

Wearing proper protection such as earmuffs and hats will keep your ears warm and safe from exostosis. Since winter weather hardens earwax, your ears should be cleaned of any buildup to further protect them. This extraction is most safely done by a hearing care professional, who can also schedule you for a hearing exam in order to determine if you have a hearing loss or need to have your hearing aids upgraded.

Those who wear hearing aids should also be more thorough when it comes to cleaning their devices in the winter, as the body tends to produce more wax when there is an object inserted into the ears for a long period of time. Any excess buildup could potentially cause your hearing aids to function improperly, requiring extra maintenance during the colder months.

If you are experiencing any discomfort or ringing in the ear due to the cold, an appointment with a hearing care professional is the first step toward preserving your hearing and restoring some of what’s been lost with the help of hearing aids.