Earwax. Ever wondered what it’s for?
Earwax is one of the body’s amazing self-cleaning devices. The technical term for earwax is cerumen. This waxy substance is produced by glands in the skin that lines the ear canal.
Earwax is water-resistant. It protects the ear tissue from infection by trapping micro-organisms, dirt, dead cells and other irritants that can damage the ear.
It tends to move from the inner ear towards the outside of the ear. Usually, this is helped along by the natural movement of your jaw as you chew food or when you talk.
Why do some people have problems with earwax?
When things are working perfectly, your ear produces just enough earwax to do its protective work. Excess earwax naturally washes away in the shower or falls out on its own.
But sometimes our ears produce too much earwax. This can lead to an ear blockage. Some people seem to be more prone to this wax blockage because:
- Their ear canals are narrow or hairy
- They’re cleaning their ears too vigorously with earbuds, which pushes wax deep into the ear canal
- They work in very dirty or dusty environments
- The person has a skin or scalp condition that produces excess skin cells
- They wear hearing aids which can sometimes push the earwax further down into the ear canal
How do you know if you have too much earwax?
The most obvious result of excessive earwax build-up is mild deafness.
Some people feel physical discomfort because the earwax may be pressing onto the eardrum, causing vertigo.
It’s common for people to have a mild earache. Tinnitus is also a common symptom.
Is there a way to prevent earwax build-up?
There’s not much you can do if your body produces too much earwax. But you can take measures to avoid a wax build-up. These include:
- Avoid poking ear buds or other cleaning implements into your ear
- Use wax softening eardrops a couple of times a week (make sure you follow the instructions on the pack)
- See a doctor or pharmacist about how you can treat any inflammatory skin conditions
What’s the safest way to clean your ears?
By now you’ll know that the last thing to do is to poke around in your ear with an earbud.
Just don’t do it!
Another method to avoid is ear candling. This is sometimes recommended by alternative medical practitioners as a way to clean the ears. Lying on one side, a hollow candle is placed in the ear canal and the other end is lit. Apart from the risk of burning, candle wax can often leak into the ear, making the problem worse.
Conventional medicine strongly recommends against the practice. Try and stick to gently cleaning the area in the outer ear with a soft washcloth.
If earwax is a real problem, visit your doctor or local hearing care specialist and ask them to clean out the excess wax in your ear. They often use eardrops first to soften the wax before clearing the ear canals with a squirt of warm water.
Get in touch!
If you have any questions about earwax, or you’d like to have a hearing test, please give us a call on 1300 970 558 to make an appointment online.