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

Cerumen, commonly known as ear wax, ranges between 20 to 50 percent fat and coats the ear canal. It’s purpose is to help moisturize, clean, and fight off infection in the ear canal. Produced by the wax glands around the outer part of the ear canal, it is typically sticky and shiny nature.  Producing too little of ear wax can result in infection, although most people produce a sufficient amount.

It is important to clean your ears the right way to avoid damage.
It is important to clean your ears the right way to avoid damage.

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 it has served its purpose, it will eventually dry and fall out of the ear. On occasion, it can build up to unhealthy amounts, with some people being more prone to producing an excessive amount than others.

Signs of excessive ear wax accumulation include:

  • Ear pain
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  • 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 it does build up to this extent, you will want to consider various methods of removing it. 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 continue to exist and affect your 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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