Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a combination of ear canal secretions, dead skin cells, dirt and dust that collects in our ear canals. Our ears use earwax to protect the body from bacteria, foreign debris, and microorganisms. Earwax is normal if it is not blocking the canal or impeding your hearing.
Our ears are self-cleaning
Our ear canal works like a conveyor belt to move the excess wax outward. Sometimes, if the wax gets too dry (as a result of changes in weather, living/working in a dusty environment, hormonal changes in the body) it can attach to the ear canal and stop migrating out. This can cause more wax to build up behind it and eventually plug up the ear.
Nothing smaller than your elbow in your ear!
Many of us have heard this handy piece of advice, but a good number of people choose to ignore it. “But Mahsa…” they say. “I love my Q-tips. I use Q-tips every morning! Please don’t take my Q-Tips away!!”
I’m not here to take anyone’s Q-Tips away, but my point is simply you can end up doing more harm than good with them.
Sometimes, yes, you will get some wax out of the ear. However, you risk pushing more wax back into the ear than you’re able to get out. This is counterproductive to the ear’s natural process of working out that wax. It also makes it much more difficult for me (and uncomfortable for you) to remove wax that has been pushed deeper into the ear. Also, constantly stripping the ear of its natural oils can result in the ear producing more wax, itchiness and irritation of the ear and ear infections. And finally, you can poke your eardrum out!
So what can I do myself at home?
The safest way to keep earwax from building up in your ears is to soften the wax with an oil, such as mineral oil or olive oil. Placing a few drops of oil into your ear at night will help soften dry wax so it can continue to migrate out of your ears naturally.
Please note: if you have a hole in your eardrum, a history of ear surgery, diabetes, PE tubes, are prone to ear infections or have a comprised immune system, consult with an audiologist or your family doctor before using at home remedies.
When should I seek professional help for earwax removal?
If you are prone to excess wax buildup in the ears or if you are experiencing a decrease in hearing, fullness in the ear, earache, ringing in the ear or a decrease in your hearing aid performance, make an appointment to see an audiologist. Your audiologist might recommend routine appointments to check for wax and remove it as necessary.
A word of caution: Don’t assume it’s wax!
Earwax is not the only cause of hearing loss. If you notice a sudden change in hearing book an appointment to see an audiologist ASAP. To read more about sudden changes in hearing and what to do click HERE.