If you've ever had too much earwax, you know it can be a frustrating experience. It's a problem almost everyone faces at some point. If you want to avoid getting this problem again, you might wonder if there's something you can do to prevent it from happening in the future.
The good news is that there are some things you can do to keep your ears healthy and prevent excessive earwax buildup. We'll look at what you can do about that sticky substance in this piece.
What is earwax?
Cerumen, commonly known as earwax, is a natural substance produced by your body with many uses and benefits. A combination of sweat, oil, and dead skin cells (true!), cerumen is regulated by the apocrine glands, which regulate your sweat.
Cerumen provides three main functions in your body:
- It stops dirt and bacteria from entering your inner ears;
- It keeps your ear canals and outer ears from getting dry and flaky
- It repels little critters such as insects from entering your ear canals.
There are two main kinds of earwax: wet and dry. In Caucasian and African populations, wet cerumen is more common, while dry cerumen can be found among Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Asians. Cerumen grows darker as we age; children tend to have lighter colored earwax, while adults have darker earwax, trapping more dirt and bacteria through the years.
Earwax that is tinged with blood could indicate a bleeding injury – seek medical attention if possible if this is the case.
How do I know if I have too much earwax?
Your body regulates cerumen, and a natural process clears it from your ears. When you chew or talk, cerumen is loosened and expelled naturally. However, there are instances where there is overproduction of cerumen, which could obstruct your hearing. Hearing specialists advise us to leave our earwax to its own devices.
Signs of over-accumulation of cerumen include:
- Earache, fullness in the ear, or a sensation that the ear is plugged.
- Partial hearing loss.
- Tinnitus ("ringing of the ear").
- Itching, odor, or discharge from the ear.
You've probably seen several odd treatments to remove earwax, such as ear candles or ear picks. It is best to steer clear of these instruments to remove cerumen buildup. Cotton swabs (Q-Tips) should also be avoided as they tend to push earwax deeper into the ear canal rather than successfully removing it. This could cause further problems with hearing and impaction. Additionally, swabbing too close to the eardrum could cause damage.
Similarly, ear candles can damage the sensitive structure of your ears. Aside from burns that may be sustained, ear candles could further obstruct your ear canals or cause perforation in the membrane that separates your ear canal and your middle ear. Ear candling causes more harm than good and has been shown to be completely ineffective at actually removing earwax.
How to get rid of earwax
If you've found that your earwax has become troublesome, irritating, or obstructing your hearing, follow a few home remedies below.
The first rule of cleaning your ears is never to insert anything into your ear canal. You may use a soft, clean cloth to clean the external parts of your ear. Cerumen buildup could be treated with liquids that soften the wax. Use a few drops of natural oils in your ear, such as mineral oil or baby oil. Pharmacies may also offer commercial drops to help soften cerumen.
Another option is ear syringing, which uses water or saline solution to clear the ear. Water should be warmed to room temperature to prevent dizziness. If you are ear syringing at home, please do so with caution and follow the instructions.
If the above home treatments do not successfully remove cerumen, contact us at Advanced Hearing & Balance Center for a professional earwax cleaning.
When you come in to see us our professionals for earwax removal, we will first look at your ears with an otoscope. We'll check for impaction of earwax and look for any other issues within your ear canals.
To remove the excess earwax, we will first soften the buildup with drops. Then, we may use a curet instrument, which is small and curved, to remove the wax manually.
Another option is to use a suction while inspecting your ear. We may use a microscope to ensure safe removal depending on the situation. We may also flush the wax with a rubber-bulb syringe filled with warm water or saline solution.
If you have been experiencing problems with cerumen buildup, contact us today to schedule a cleaning.