Shaking your head to clear annoying water out of your ears after a swim or a shower might seem a natural reaction to the irritant, but new research says the vigorous movement could actually cause brain damage.
Younger children are particularly vulnerable to harm from shaking their heads quickly to dislodge the water, according to Researchers at Cornell University and Virginia Tech in the US, who studied the acceleration required to clear water out of tubes of various diameters.
The team, who will present their findings at the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics annual meeting, say that their models indicate that surface tension is a key factor in water getting stuck in ear canals in the first place.
The acceleration required to shake water out of the ear is lower in adults as their ear canals are wider, though where exactly the water is trapped is also a factor in how easily it can be shaken out.
The researchers did have some good news, though, for anyone prone to the problem of water trapped in their ear canals.
“Presumably, putting a few drops of a liquid with lower surface tension than water, like alcohol or vinegar, in the ear would reduce the surface tension force allowing the water to flow out,” researcher Anuj Baskota said.
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