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Ok to skip a hat in winter?

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It smashes my hair. It looks goofy. No one else wears a hat. It’s not just kids who hate wearing hats in winter. Many would rather risk frostbite than wear a hat to cover their head and ears, even when the weather is icy cold.

We’ve all heard that you lose about 10 percent of your body heat through your exposed head. But what about your ears? Ears don’t have a lot of insulating fat, so they get cold quickly. Ever felt pain on the inside of your ear after being outside in the cold? Experts say it’s because the nerves in the ear canal are unprotected, and react whenever they are cold. Lack of adequate blood circulation in the cold can cause it too.

The American Academy of Audiology (AAA) says that cold and wet ears increase your risk for infection, and may lead to “exostosis,” a condition also called “surfer’s ear.” Unlike swimmer’s ear, surfer’s ear is a tumor of the external ear canal. It can be caused by several types of chronic irritation, including prolonged exposure to cold water and freezing wind.

Covering your ears with a warm hat or thick earmuffs helps prevent frostbite; uncovered fingers and ears are especially vulnerable to harsh temperatures. “Chilblains” can occur on the skin when it’s repeatedly exposed to freezing temperatures. The AAA say signs include itching, redness, blistering, inflammation, and possible ulceration. If this occurs on your outer ear or ear lobes, experts advise slowly warming the skin and applying corticosteroid creams to relieve itching and swelling.

In cold, wet weather, people with hearing aids should cover their ears to protect their valuable and sensitive hearing instruments.

Susan Rogan Hearing : 319 W. Ogden Avenue, Westmont, IL 60559 (anticipated move in January to 1501 Ogden Avenue, Downers Grove, IL 60515) : 630.969.1677; and 419 N. La Grange Road, La Grange Park, IL 60526 : 708.588.0155 : www.susanroganhearing.com.