Have you ever thought about the beneficial effects of earwax? Probably not, because we don't tend to think of it until we have too much of it.
Why do we need earwax?
Earwax, also known as cerumen, forms naturally in our ears as a barrier to keep dust, debris, and dirt out of the deep, often sensitive portions of our ears. Earwax also acts as a moisturizer for the outer ear, preventing it from becoming dry, irritated, or infected. It also keeps any bugs out of your inner ear because the scent of earwax repels them.
Our ears are designed to be self-cleaning. When we chew or move our jaw, we loosen the earwax and shift it to the outer ear, where it falls out or gets washed away when we shower.
However, some individuals may find an earwax buildup in their ears for one reason or another.
The problem of impacted earwax
According to the American Academy of Audiology, excessive earwax buildup is a common cause of conductive hearing loss. However, earwax buildup or impaction can result in more than just a loss of hearing function.
It can include earaches, the feeling of fullness or congestion in the ear, or tinnitus (a buzzing or ringing sound in the ear). If left untreated, earwax buildup can lead to an infection, severe pain, ear discharge, and other fever-like symptoms.
Which groups are commonly affected by impacted earwax?
Earwax impaction is more common in older adults, but it can affect all ages. According to studies, approximately 30% of seniors have earwax buildup in the ear canal. Nearly two-thirds of the 2.2 million persons who reside in assisted living facilities or nursing homes in the United States have this condition.
How to safely remove earwax at home
Leo Gerstenzang invented Q-tips in 1923 as his wife was wrapping cotton around a toothpick to clean their baby's ears. That may explain why you may have been advised as a child to use these to clean your ears, but that is the very last thing you should do.
Cotton swabs and other little foreign things that can fit in our ears push earwax further back into the canal, obstructing our hearing even more. These objects have the potential to harm your hearing.
Allowing your ears to clean themselves is the best way to care for them.
Other methods include:
- Wipe the outside of your ear with a warm cloth.
- Over-the-counter drops usually contain a delicate balance of water and peroxide. They help soften the wax so it can come out on its own.
- Use a rubber-bulb syringe filled with warm water to gently squirt water into your ear canal and flush out loose earwax and debris. Tilt your head so that water drains from your ear canal, then dry your outer ear with a towel.
Still, having issues? We can help.
The good news is that we can quickly treat cerumen impaction if you have earwax buildup that is causing hearing loss. We use an otoscope, a device that allows us to look deep within the ear to determine if there is an earwax buildup or not.
If earwax has built up, we're proficient in professional tools to help remove it and restore your hearing. Please get in touch with us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment.