Your hearing is precious- you use it every day, for almost everything you do- and your ears are amazing apparatuses, and yet, they can be surprisingly delicate. Knowing how to take care of your ears and protect your hearing is important to preserving your hearing health. Blocking loud noises and limiting your exposure to sound are the most habits to adopt to prevent hearing loss, but did you know you also do your ears a favor when you sneeze?
Let It Out
Sneezing is your body’s way of expelling particles. Although it’s not a great idea (especially during cold and flu season) to sneeze without covering your face, stifling a sneeze is no good for you. Recently, a British man blocking his mouth and nose while sneezing did serious internal damage to his throat, tearing his pharynx and painfully introducing air into the muscle tissue of his chest cavity.
Internal damage of this sort is unusual, but it is possible when the force of a sneeze is effectively blocked. Instead of releasing itself, the air pressure building in the lungs cavity is redirected through the Eustachian tube and the cavity of the middle ear. When pressurized air travels on this course, the suppression of a big sneeze can damage the delicate bones and tissue found there.
It’s All Connected
You probably have sensed the physical connection between your nasal passageway and your throat. After all, we use both as direct routes for getting air to and from our lungs. Some of us probably have the unpleasant memory of laughing so hard liquid in our mouth was expelled through our nostrils. The direct connection between the nasal cavity and the larynx is the area of the throat known as the pharynx.
You may be more surprised however to learn that there is also a passageway that leads from the back of our throat directly to our middle ear. This passage is called the Eustachian tube or the auditory tube and runs from the pharyngeal orifice to the middle ear. In the middle ear, the auditory tube runs past the three small vibrating bones located behind the eardrum (also called the tympanic membrane).
Medical cases have been recorded of broken and damaged auditory bones caused by air pressure routed through the auditory tube. The air pressure from a stifled sneeze also holds the potential to painfully rupture the eardrum. Middle ear damage can cause sudden conductive hearing loss and needs to be treated by a medical professional.
The middle ear is also the passage to the membrane tissue of the inner ear, and a blast of air pressure can harm these ear structures as well. Damage to the inner ear can lead to sensorineural hearing loss which is most often permanent. Air pressure sent up the auditory tubes can also trap air pockets in soft tissue, a painful condition called emphysema. Though most notorious as a long term health effect in the lungs of smokers, emphysema can occur anywhere in the body’s tissue where air pockets are introduced.
Carry a Handkerchief
Sneezing may release built up pressure and naturally clean your throat and nasal passages of irritants, but it can also be a public health hazard. A normal sneeze expels 100,000 germs into the surrounding air. Those droplets can linger in the air or land on nearby surfaces which can spread illness and infection, especially in crowded areas.
Don’t be afraid to let your sneeze out, but don’t be a public health menace. To contain anything contagious, remember to be prepared with a tissue or handkerchief to cover your nose and mouth. If you are caught unprepared, cover your lower face with your arm and sneeze into your elbow. If you’ve sneezed recently, always disinfect your hands before touching things in public places like hand rails, shopping carts or elevator buttons. Being conscientious about your sneezing and coughing prevents contagious diseases from spreading.
Hearing Wellness Solutions
If you have hearing issues, Hearing Wellness Solutions can help you find answers. We offer thorough audiological testing to get to the root of your hearing problem and connect you with effective, personalized options for treatment. We offer our patients advanced hearing solutions from brands you can trust and unbeatable customer care from our conveniently located office in beautiful Springfield, Missouri. If it is time for a hearing exam, contact us today!
Candace has been helping people with their hearing for more than ten years. She started her hearing journey working as an Audiology Assistant in a busy Ear, Nose and Throat office. Candace witnessed firsthand how she could enrich the lives of individuals and she found her passion. Candace decided to push further to learn. She received training from two Audiologists while she pursued and obtained her Missouri Hearing Instrument Specialist license.