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Shaking head vigorously to free ears from water could be harmful

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The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Wed, January 1, 2020  /  05:06 pm
Shaking head vigorously to free ears from water could be harmful

A woman holds her hands near her ear. (Shutterstock/Duet PandG)

Shaking your head vigorously in an attempt to remove water blockage from your ears after swimming or showering might be quick and effective, but a new study suggests this seemingly harmless act might lead to health problems, even brain damage.

Science Alert pointed to a study conducted by a team from Cornell University that found that the risk of vigorous head-shaking is greater for small children.

An engineering student involved in the study, Anuj Baskota, explained that the research mainly focused on the acceleration required to get the water out of the ear canal.

"The critical acceleration that we obtained experimentally on glass tubes and 3D-printed ear canals was around the range of 10 times the force of gravity for infant ear sizes, which could cause damage to the brain,” he said to Science Alert.

Read also: Hearing loss threatens old, young alike

In simulating the amount of force involved, the team engineered glass tubes of different diameters as replicas of the human ear canal. The fake ears were 3D-printed and modeled based on real CT scans of the human ear and varnished with silane to achieve a similar level of hydrophobicity.

To ascertain the force of gravity required to push the water out, the research team dropped water-loaded tube to the springs.

The team described the result in the abstract, explaining that volume and position of trapped liquid inside the tube determines critical acceleration to remove the water from the ear canal.

"We found that the critical acceleration is on the order of 10 g, which may cause serious damage to the human brain," the researchers wrote.

As the findings are based upon simulations and not yet tested on humans, they still can’t be considered as clinical proof.

However, it is worth noting that there are safer ways to remove water from the ears, such as jiggling the earlobes, lying on your side for a moment, or dropping more liquid to alter the surface tension inside the ear and then letting the water flow out of the ear canal. (vel/mut)

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