Is Earwax Really So Evil?

Earwax has a bad rap, generally considered something to get rid of and, for some people, a downright disgusting aspect of being human.

But the fact of the matter is earwax is actually a pretty important part of your ears’ self-defense mechanism.

That sticky texture that freaks some folks out? All part of the design matrix. Because one thing earwax does is to throw up a roadblock to any dust, dirt, and debris that’s gotten into the ear canal. This is important before it gets too far into the ear canal and potentially causes damage to the crucial parts of the inner ear.

Earwax also has antibacterial and antifungal properties that help control ear infections, the bane of many a childhood (and sometimes adulthoods too). So, score another one for earwax, especially if you’re a swimmer since earwax helps stand guard against whatever might be in the water.

And there’s more. Earwax can also act as the inner ear’s airbag when there is trauma to the head. It basically helps keep parts of the ear from moving out of place when jolted.

So, given all of that, getting obsessive about “cleaning out” earwax is not advisable. This is especially true when using a cotton swab to dig it out, since it’s not at all uncommon for people to damage their ears doing this by pushing earwax into the middle and inner ear (where all the important parts are). Less severely, shoving all the earwax back into the ear often leads to blockage that can inhibit hearing and, in some cases, make infection more likely.

The best option is to not fiddle too much with your earwax. When it’s done doing its work, what’s leftover will make its natural journey to the outer ear, dry out on its own, and drift away naturally.