What is ear wax?

Ear wax is a mixture of secretions from the ceruminous, sebaceous and sweat glands in the outer-third of the ear canal along with skin debris. Cerumen glands are found only in the skin of the ear canals. The absence of earwax may result in dry, itchy ears.

What good is it?

Earwax is healthy in normal amounts and serves to coat the skin of the ear canal where it acts as a temporary water repellent. Ear wax, traps anything foreign that flies, crawls, or is blown into the ear canals. The primary purpose of ear wax is to protect your ear canal and ear drum from such foreign materials.

What problems can ear wax cause?

There is a natural migratory process that prevents accumulation of wax and skin debris in the ear canal. Many patients that present with wax problems are regular users of cotton earbuds, safety-pins and hair-pins, which can push wax into the deeper parts of the ear-canal. Hearing loss occurs when wax completely blocks the ear canal. Even a small amount of wax, if wedged between the ear drum and the ear canal wall, reduces the ability of the ear drum to conduct sound.

How should I clean my ears?

Most cases of earwax blockage respond to home treatments used to soften wax if there is no hole in the eardrum. You can try placing a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil or commercial ear wax removal drops. People who have a history of middle ear infections or a hole in the ear drum should NOT try these remedies, nor should they allow a physician to irrigate their ears. Do not self-medicate with persistent symptoms; the problem may be unrelated to wax and may be more serious.

What Are the Symptoms of Wax Build-up?

  • partial hearing loss, may be progressive
  • tinnitus, noises in the ear
  • earache
  • fullness in the ear or a sensation the ear is plugged

If you notice these problems, you should consult your ENT specialist. Do not attempt to remove wax from your child’s ear. You may make matters worse.

Remember, ‘Nothing smaller than your elbow should enter your ears!’

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