Ear Wax

Why do we have ear wax, and how do we know when to clean it?

Cerumen, commonly known as ear wax, ranges between 20 to 50 percent fat and coats the ear canal. Ear wax helps to moisturize, clean, and fight off infection from the ear canal. Produced by the wax glands around the outer part of the ear canal, ear wax is sticky and shiny. Not producing enough ear wax can result in infection, although most people produce enough to avoid any infection.

Ear wax exists as the body’s natural defense against particles that approach the inner ear as well as a natural cleanser and lubricator for the ears. After ear wax has served its purpose, it exits the ear canal and continues to dry out and fall out of the ear. On occasion, ear wax builds up to unhealthy amounts, and some people are more prone to producing excessive ear wax than others.

Signs of excessive ear wax accumulation include:

  • Ear pain
  • A feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Loss of hearing
  • Ringing in the ears (Tinnitis)
  • Ear infection
  • Itching
  • Ear odor
  • Discharge from the ear

When ear wax does build up to this extent, you will want to consider various methods of removing the ear wax. People often use at-home methods to clean their ears such as cotton swabs, hair pins, or other similar objects. However, if used incorrectly, these methods can push the wax deeper into the ear canal and as a result, cause irritation or even cause the eardrum to rupture.

Ear wax can be safely removed at home by using a cloth to wipe and wash the fleshy external part of the ear. It is important to avoid putting anything in your ear canal.

If excessive amounts of ear wax continue to exist and affect the ability to hear, it is important to see a doctor. A doctor can effectively and safely clean excessive wax out of the ear canal.



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