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Jumping or shaking your head to get rid of water in the ear canal can be dangerous

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A new study has suggested that jumping or shaking your head in order to get rid of water in the ear canal can be dangerous: the acceleration needed to get the water out is apparently enough to get brain damage. To test the hypothesis, scientists created several glass tubes imitating the outer ear canal, poured water into them and launched them on the spring, simulating shaking the head. The authors presented the results at the 72nd annual American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics conference in Seattle.

The outer ear canal is a slightly curved tube, which can cause water to be collected, for example, after swimming. Usually, water comes out on its own, but its presence in the ear can cause discomfort or even temporary hearing impairment, and can also cause diseases like otitis externa. Because of this, they try to get rid of the water in the ear faster, and one of the most common ways is to jump, tilting your head, or shake it.

This method of getting rid of water, however, can be dangerous. To show this, a team of scientists led by Anuj Baskota from Cornell University collected several models of ear canals made of hydrophobic glass. The models were of different sizes so that they roughly correspond to the real-ear canals of adults and children.

The tubes were then attached to the spring and triggered to simulate the shaking process of the head and calculate the acceleration needed for the water to come out of the tube. It turned out that this requires acceleration, ten times the acceleration of free fall – which, according to the authors, is enough to get brain damage. At the same time, the smaller the channel, the greater acceleration was necessary in order to rid it of water: therefore for children, such a procedure can be more dangerous.

Instead, the authors advise dripping a liquid with lower surface tension – alcohol or vinegar – in the ear canal: apparently, it is the surface tension that is responsible for the jamming of water in the ear canal. You can also, for example, lie down with the right eye on a horizontal surface and wait for a little.

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