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Now Hear This: Ear Hair Is Common and Easy to Get Rid Of


It sprouts around the time of puberty but doesn't usually become noticeable until middle age or later, when some view it as a sign of geezerhood.

Ear hair is perfectly normal, dermatologists say.

Driven by levels of testosterone and by genetics, ear hair is more common in men but not unheard of in women. But women with ear hair generally have less than men do and it is finer.

How to get rid of it? Dermatologists and other experts say the removal options are many: Take a razor and shave it, or pluck it.

The very patient souls who hope never to see another ear hair can consider electrolysis, the use of a small amount of electric current to destroy the hair roots. The number of sessions needed varies widely, depending on the growth. While the treatment is generally considered permanent, subsequent treatment is sometimes needed, electrologists say. For the pain-sensitive, topical anesthesia is used.

Whatever the hair-removal method, keeping the area clean can minimize the chance of infection.


A Pain in the Elbow: Tennis elbow strikes not only singles and doubles players but other athletes, laborers and even travelers who carry heavy suitcases. The pain can be so severe that sufferers suspect a broken bone.

Tennis elbow actually refers to several painful conditions that affect the inner (medial) or outer (lateral) elbow area and involve tendon degeneration and tissue inflammation.

Lateral tennis elbow most often strikes between ages 30 and 50; changes in the tendon attributed to aging are a factor. Pain worsens when shaking hands, drinking from a cup or opening a door.

Medial tennis elbow most often affects younger tennis or baseball players.

Nonsurgical treatments often work, but it's not unusual for recovery to take six months. Minor symptoms can persist in up to 40% of patients. Among the treatment options: activity modification, rest, ice, stretching and oral anti-inflammatory agents. Cortisone given by injection or transdermally can help, but it can be detrimental if overused. About 20% of patients need surgery.

Rehabilitation should include stretching followed by progressive strengthening of the muscles involved. To prevent recurrence, close attention should be paid to selecting proper tennis racquets and other equipment and to sports technique.


Tattoos Be Gone: While some people wonder why anyone would get a tattoo, several researchers have moved on to another question: What motivates people to seek tattoo removal?

In a survey of 105 men and women, most said they obtained their tattoos impulsively at an early age to express self-identity and now wanted to dissociate from the past and improve their self-identity.

Most said they were not influenced by external factors such as improvement of job opportunity or compliance with authority to remove the tattoos.

The top reason quoted for wanting a tattoo removed was to "help me feel better about myself."

Other facts uncovered:

* 58% said they did not use drugs or alcohol right before getting the tattoo.

* 42% reported strong peer pressure to get a tattoo.

* 38% said they felt deviant while getting the body art.

* 86% did no comparison shopping among tattoo artists.

* 7% reported medical problems afterward, such as short-term irritation and photosensitivity.

Laser therapy to remove tattoos has improved, but anyone contemplating such body art should still consider it permanent, experts say. Removal can be costly and require many sessions. And, experts say, for every reputable artist there are probably two or three "skin scratchers," a derogatory term for those not qualified.


Sleeping and Driving: Despite popular belief, sleep is not voluntary. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 50,000 motor vehicle crashes in the United States are caused each year by sleepy drivers. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers should watch for the following signs:

* Your eyes close or go out of focus.

* You have trouble keeping your head up.

* You can't stop yawning.

* You have wandering, disconnected thoughts.

* You don't remember the last few miles.

* You drift between lanes, tailgate or miss traffic signs.


Sources: (ear hair) Dr. Robert Auerbach, Manhattan dermatologist and New York University clinical professor of dermatology, Dr. Annette Gottlieb, Beverly Hills dermatologist, and Nelli Zarembo, Beverly Hills electrologist; (tattoo removal) Myrna L. Armstrong, professor of nursing, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock and Archives of Dermatology, April 1996; (tennis elbow) American College of Sports Medicine and Dr. Cathleen Godzik, director of the Hand and Upper Extremity Institute of Southern California at Orthopaedic Hospital.

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