Ear Piercing - A guide to Hearing Loss

This is a very popular form of fashion in which the ears are used to display jewellery in any number of ways. Many people display ear rings in the ear lobe only but others choose to have more than one piercing and in different parts of the ear.

The ear is the most popular site for piercing but many parts of the body can be pierced such as the nipples, tongue and belly button.

The ear lobe is the safest and most popular site for piercing and complications are rare. An ear lobe piercing is easy to look after and jewellery hangs better than in other parts of the ear. However other parts of the ear have become popular sites for piercing which include the helix (top of the ear), conch (near the ear canal), tragus (small nub of cartilage in front of the ear canal) and the rook (small fold of cartilage above the ear canal).

These are all names given to styles of ear piercing.

These parts of the ear contain the most cartilage and can be the most painful as well! They also take much longer to heal than the traditional lobe piercing, as much as a year in some cases.

Risks of ear piercing

Ear piercing is a relatively straightforward procedure and it is easy to become blaséabout it but there are risks which include:

  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction to the ear ring
  • Bleeding
  • Bad or misaligned piercing due to inexperience or poor technique

The ear lobe is the most popular site for piercing but other parts of the ear can be pierced although they require a great deal of skill and experience on the part of the practitioner. Ear cartilage can be damaged if care is not taken and can result in unsightly scars, infections and even permanent disfigurement. Hearing loss can occur in the case of an infection although this tends to disappear once the infection is treated.

Piercings in the upper part of the ear tend to become infected more easily than other parts of the ear. Repeated infections can damage the cartilage over time so that the ear eventually becomes misshapen or develops into ‘cauliflower ear’ – a look that is more commonly seen on boxers.

Ear infections are the main risk for ear cartilage piercings which is mainly due to the fact that there is less blood supply to this area as compared to the lobe. Plus many of this piercings are carried out with a piercing gun which places much more force on the cartilage than a needle and subsequently damages it. A common ear cartilage infection is ‘perichondritis’ in which the tissues surrounding the cartilage become infected. Symptoms of this include pain, redness, swelling and a discharge from the infected site.

Is there a risk of hearing loss? Hearing loss isn’t normally a problem with ear piercing but if the site of a piercing becomes infected then fluid from the infection may block the ear canal which affects hearing. This is more likely to happen with those piercings such as the conch which are next to the ear canal. Another possible factor is having an ear ring which is too big and blocks the ear canal thereby impairing your hearing.

There is a fashion for wearing body piercing jewellery as ear rings which may be great as a form of personal expression but can cause problems. If the site of the piercing is right next to the ear canal (e.g. conch) and you choose a large disc shaped or ear plug type of ear ring then there is a chance that this will cover part of the ear canal which will affect your hearing. A fully qualified practitioner will be able to advise you about suitable choices of ear rings for a cartilage piercing.


Whatever piercing you choose there is always a risk of infection but this can minimised by following an aftercare routine. This means cleaning the site of your piercing on a daily basis with cotton wool buds and warm water or a special solution recommended by your piercer.

Turn the piercing gently to prevent it from adhering itself in the hole which will also help these to heal properly.

If you notice any signs of an infection then seek medical advice.

Hearing Loss

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