Earwax Buildup Can Affect Hearing
Although the topic is somewhat unappealing, it’s a matter that affects all of us – earwax, also called cerumen. Contrary to its name, earwax isn’t actually a wax, rather it’s a mixture of skin cells and oil secreted by glands in the ear canal. We have earwax because it lubricates and protects the sensitive lining of the canal. It also traps dirt and has some antimicrobial properties which means it can help fight off infections.
Earwax tends to move to the opening of the ear, as we chew and make other jaw movements, where it then dries and flakes out of the ear. However, sometimes an ear canal can get blocked up with earwax – this is called an impaction. This can happen when the ear produces too much earwax, when the earwax gets too hard to wash away, or when a Q-Tip forces the earwax deeper into the ear canal rather than cleaning it out.
Health experts actually do not recommend the use of Q-Tips to clean the ear out. In addition to causing impactions, Q-Tips can also scratch your ear canal and cause an infection.
If you have an earwax blockage it’s likely that you will feel a pressure sensation in the ear, some degree of hearing loss, and even earache. These symptoms usually serve as a prompt to go see a doctor.
A doctor has several options to remove a wax blockage. The most common method is to flush out the ear with pressurized water. Alternatively, a doctor can use a small wire instrument to remove the wax manually. You can also find earwax removal kits in pharmacies that have wax softening drops and a bulb syringe to flush out the ear. Your ear canal and eardrum are delicate and can be easily damaged by using objects to dig out excessive or hardened earwax – take care if using self-treatment.
If you have a problem with excess earwax, an expert may advise you to carry out a simple home procedure to prevent buildup. Flushing out your ears once a week with lukewarm water, using a common rubber bulb syringe can clean out wax before it accumulates. Ideally, ears might never need cleaning, as they are designed to clean themselves.