Earwax and Ear Cleaning


Below is a general guide to help you learn more about earwax ( also known as cerumen ). While this does not cover all aspects of earwax, it should answer most of the common questions. If you have further questions, feel free to contact the Discount Valley Customer Service Department. We would be glad to assist in any way we can.

What is earwax?

Glands make earwax (also called cerumen) in the outer part of the ear canal. Earwax is made by your body to help your ear stay healthy. The purpose of this sticky substance is to act as a shield to prevent dust, dirt and other materials from entering your ear canal. Earwax also helps to maintain the ear canal’s balance of acid and protects the ears from various infections.

A popular myth about cerumen is that it is a sign of poor hygiene. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! It is not only normal to have earwax inside the ear canal, it is essential for proper ear health. Your ears constantly clean themselves by slowly moving earwax and debris out of the ear canal opening. Most of the time, you will be unaware of this cleaning process.

Can earwax become a problem?

Fresh earwax is soft and yellow. Older earwax is brown or black and may even look like blood. The wax may also be dry, white, and flaky. If you have the darker kind, or it looks like blood, you may want to see a specialist to make sure it isn’t a more complicated problem.

Too much earwax in the ear can cause an uncomfortable sensation. If excess earwax gathers in the ear canal, it can act like an earplug; blocking sound vibrations entering the ear and causing a slight hearing loss.

What causes excess earwax buildup?

No one knows for sure why some people have problems with earwax and others don’t. Older adults tend to have more problems than younger adults. People with coarse wiry hairs in the ears seem to have greater difficulty. This occurs more often in older men.

Some people may have the problem in only one ear, others with both or neither ear. If you use a hearing aid, you should pay special attention to excess buildup of earwax. The ear mold of a hearing aid can act like a dam, preventing the wax from moving freely out of your ear canal.

Your ear can also get impacted (plugged up) with earwax if you use objects to clean the ear canal. An object may push earwax deeper into the ear canal and compact it. The compacted earwax will then harden and could cause a sudden loss of hearing or ear pain.

Never try to remove earwax from your ear canal yourself. Objects such as a cotton-tipped swab, car key, bobby pin, toothpick, matchstick, or high-pressure water spray are unsafe tools for removing earwax. These ear-cleaning devices often push the earwax further down the ear canal toward the eardrum.

If these objects come in contact with your eardrum, they can injure the ear canal and can perforate the eardrum. They may also damage the small bones in the middle ear behind the eardrum. They can even damage the inner ear, causing permanent hearing loss.

How is earwax buildup treated?

There are safe ways to remove earwax if it is causing pain or loss of hearing. You can use baby oil, mineral oil, or special ear drops to soften the earwax. This may be enough to get the excess wax to slowly move out of the ear. The wax will fall out or may be cleaned safely from the outer ear with a washcloth.

Your health care provider can remove earwax that is still causing problems. They may use irrigation (ear washes), a curette (tiny spoon-shaped tool), or suction.

Your health care provider may refer you to an ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist for earwax removal if you have:

  • chronic ear disease.
  • a punctured or ruptured eardrum (now or in the past).
  • only one ear with good hearing, and that ear is the one with the earwax buildup.

If your ear is repeatedly impacted with earwax, you will probably need to see an ENT specialist regularly.

How can I take care of myself?

Unless there is a blockage, it is best to leave earwax alone. Remember that earwax is necessary to protect the ear. It does not mean that your ears are not clean.

If you tend to have problems with earwax buildup, you can do these things to help yourself:

  • Don’t attempt to soften the wax in your ear if you have ear pain, cold symptoms, or if your eardrum has ever been punctured.
  • Don’t put any object (such as cotton swabs or pencils) inside your ears to try to clean them.
  • See your healthcare provider if you develop pain or discomfort in one or both ears or if you notice a change in your hearing.

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Author: Piyawut Sutthiruk

Losing weight will keep you healthy and have a long life. Cheer Up!

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