What is earwax?
Earwax is a yellowish waxy substance secreted in the ear canal of humans and other mammals. It protects the skin of the human ear canal, assists in cleaning and lubrication, and also provides some protection against bacteria, fungi, insects and water. It is also known as cerumen.
What is the benefit of earwax?
The b ody produces earwax (or cerumen) to clean and protect the ears. The wax collects dirt, dust and other matter, preventing them from getting farther into the ear.
How does the body eliminate earwax?
Normally, the wax dries up and falls out of the ear, along with any trapped dust or debris. Also, everyday activities like moving your jaw and chewing help new earwax push old earwax to the ear opening where it flakes off or is washed off during bath.
Why is it harmful to try cleaning your ears?
Most people try to clean their ears because they believe it is a sign of uncleanliness. However, in the process of cleaning, the wax gets pushed farther into the canal causing impaction.
Also objects put into the ear for cleaning may cause damage to the ear canal or ear drum leading to temporary or permanent change.
These objects may irritate the ear canal, cause infection and even increase the chances of wax buildup.
How does ear impaction occur?
Everyone makes ear wax, but the amount and type are genetically determined just like hair color or height.
1) Use of pointed objects in cleaning the ears is the most common cause of impaction because though these objects remove the wax at the outer part, they push the rest and larger amount of wax deeper into the ear.
2) Smaller or oddly shaped ear canals may make it difficult for the naturally occurring wax to get out of the canal resulting in wax impactions.
3) People who use earplugs and hearing aids are also more prone to earwax impaction because these push wax farther into the ear.
What are the symptoms of earwax impaction?
-Plugged or fullness sensation
-Ringing in the ear
-Itching or drainage from the ear canal
How is earwax impaction treated?
If you experience any of the above symptoms, see your doctor for help.
Some of the methods for treating ear wax impaction include;
– Application of softening agents into the ear to dissolve the wax. These agents include; olive oil, glycerin
– Syringing of the ears with warm water.
Prevention of earwax impaction
The dos and donts of ear cleaning include;
– Don’t overdo it when cleaning your ears. Overcleaning can irritate the ear canal and possibly cause an infection.
– Don’t stick things in your ear. Cotton swabs, hair pins and toothpicks can cause a cut in the ear canal, a hole in the eardrum, and/or dislocation of the hearing bones, causing problems including hearing loss, dizziness and ringing.
– Don’t use ear candles.
– Do seek medical attention if you have hearing loss, ear fullness, drainage, bleeding or ear pain.