Why Do We Have Ear Wax?

Why Do We Have Ear Wax?

Earwax, which is also known as cerumen, is a normal product of the glands within the ear canal. The purpose of it is to protect the ear from damage and infections.  The glands produce a wax to provide a Teflon-like surface, keeping dust particles out, and even repelling water (Stoppler, 2017)

Excessive earwax can reduce the hearing by 10 decibels, and cause symptoms such as itching, ringing in the ears, dizziness, an earache, and a sensation of fullness within the ears.  Most of these symptoms worsen with the use of cotton swabs because it is likely that you can accidentally force the wax to go deeper in the ear and even lean against the eardrum (Stoppler, 2017).

Ear wax usually dries, and moves to the opening of the ear, but at times it hardens within the ear canal and blocks most or all of the ear canal.   This can occur in those who use cotton swabs, people who wear hearing aids or use devices in the ear, and the elderly to name a few (American, 2007).

There are ways to treat excessive wax, including kits that can be purchased at your local pharmacy.  If this does not work, the healthcare provider may try using a flexible tiny “spoon” to remove it, or may use a warm water rinse under light pressure (American, 2007).

Some have used a special procedure to remove wax called “candling”.  The warmth of a candle causes a suction through the fabric funnel, drawing the wax out.  The Food and Drug Administration warns against this due to risks of burns, perforation of the eardrum, hearing loss, and it may even causing further blockage that requires surgery.  Also, the American Academy of Audiology also states there is no scientific proof that candling pulls out debris and “impurities”(Story, 2016). 

To prevent blockage of the ear canal with wax, do not clear the canals with ear swabs.  Instead, simple use a towel to clean opening of the ear after showering.  Use the over-the-counter treatment kit before the symptoms become severe, following the package directions. These kits usually include a medicine that softens the wax, and a bulb syringe to flush the ear.  If this does not work, see your healthcare provider for treatment.

 

 

American Family Physician (2007).  Earwax:  What you should know.  Retrieved from www.aafp.org/afp/2007/0515/p1530.html.

Steppler, M. (2017).  Earwax removal.  Retrieved from www.medicinenet.com/ear_wax/article.html on 3/13/17.

Story, C. (2016). Why you shouldn’t listen to ear candling claims.  Retrieved from www.healthline.com/health/cosmetic-safety/ear-candling#Overview1 on 3/13/17.

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