Hearing in Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, we see the sense of hearing as governed by the element of Akash (or ether). When we hear sound, it is travelling as a vibration through the atmosphere. This sound comes into contact with our ears, which very cleverly fire an electric chemical signal up to the brain to help us interpret and understand sound. We have two elements to consider when balancing hearing. First is the input, which is the information that is travelling to us. Second is the health of the ears.
Input of Sound
In terms of balancing the input, we are looking for sound that is neither too loud, nor too soft. We understand that a world devoid of sound can actually hinder the sense of hearing: for example, something that is too quiet, perhaps with lots of whispering, is not conducive to good hearing. In the same vein, exposure to very loud sounds is not good either. The use of ear defenders when dealing with loud mechanical equipment is very important in order to protect your hearing. However, on a day to day basis, you should also be conscious of extremely loud sounds, especially when listening to music via headphones or when part of a loud event, such as a concert. In the case of headphones, most
smartphones let you select a lower decibel at which to set the transmission so the ears don’t have quite as much exposure.
Quality of Sound
You can also consider the quality of the sound. We can use sound as a medium to heal the body. Lovely instruments, such as Tibetan bowls, produce a really gorgeous sound that can help to heal the body (for more information, please read my blog about singing bowls!) Elsewhere, generally listening to beautiful instrumental music can have a really pleasing and harmonious effect on the body. Of course, listening to nice words from loved ones and the melodious sound of life is really important to give us the right level of stimulation in the body.
We want to keep the ears in great shape. Nature is really clever and has already provided us with something to keep them in good shape: earwax. When we think about it, earwax is completely the opposite in quality to Akash (ether). It is very heavy, sticky and gooey, far more what we would associate with Kapha (earth) and Aap (water). The body naturally produces earwax, but we want the right amount.
In ayurveda, we understand ear wax to be a waste material that comes from what we call Mamsa Dhatu (or the muscle tissue). There is a lovely connection in Ayurveda, so if we see a problem in the earwax, we can consider what is going on further back in relation to the Dhatu.
Oil & Massage
In order to keep the amount of earwax in balance, we can keep the body in great shape so that it continues to create the right amount. We don’t like to clear earwax with earbuds (putting things in the ear isn’t necessarily a good idea) but Ayurveda does recommend that you support the ears with oil. Due to the Akash element, putting excess oil onto the ears can be really supportive and nourishing.
We can use a range of different oils to do this, including plain sesame oil, but it is the technique that we can achieve quite a lot with. Put some oil in a bowl and ensure that your hands are clean with well trimmed nails. Take some oil and start to massage it into your earlobes. A great time to do this is part of your daily oiling routine before you get in the shower. The process doesn’t need to take long, unless you have time and you really want to extend the practice. Take the thumb on the back of the ear and your index finger on the front, and gently massage in circular motions from the top of the ear, round the back, and down to the earlobes. Gently tug the earlobes up and down (this feels really lovely!)
We can then connect with a Marma point on the back of both ears. We say there are 107 marma points in Ayurveda, which are energy points in the body. One of them, known as the Vidhura Marma, is located by the mastoid bone (at the back of the ear where the space of the skull is). We can use our thumb pads to gently massage the Vidhura Marma in circular motions. If the area is sore and tender, then obviously please go very gently. Otherwise, massage around the ears for a few seconds before hopping in a warm shower and letting the oil penetrate.
You can also massage the back of the neck and into the TMJ joint in the jaw. Furthermore, if you have some olive oil or sesame oil, you can place a dab on the tip of your finger and gently massage it inside your ear.
We can also practice Gandusha, which is oil pulling in the mouth. For more detailed information about oil pulling, please read my previous blog. Take a tablespoon of plain sesame oil and swish it around your mouth. Push and pull it in and out of the cheeks. By doing this, we are moving and internally oleating the jaw. It also has the benefit of going through into the ears. We are really getting oil into the whole oral cavity, and the additional application on the ears is an added benefit. If you are doing the oil pulling, brush your teeth first and clean your tongue with a tongue scraper. Do the oil swishing for a few minutes before spitting it out. Incorporate oil pulling into your daily practice: put the oil onto the body and ears and hop into the shower. This will go a long way in maintaining your sense of hearing.