Ear Wax Removal: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We get it, ear wax seems kind of gross, however if you think of it as the result of your ear’s self-clean cycle, it doesn’t seem so bad! The beauty of our ears is that they are designed to produce cerumen – the technical term for ear wax – as a protective measure. Just look at all the benefits of this waxy substance:

  • It prevents germs, bacteria and even dust particles from entering into your sensitive inner ear
  • It slows the growth of bacteria that already lives in your ear canal
  • It serves as a protective barrier against water and other substances – keeping irritation, damage and infection at bay

With all the great benefits, it almost seems like ear wax removal is a bad thing; this isn’t necessarily the case though. A buildup of ear wax can cause irritation in your ear canal, an earache and is even responsible for hearing loss and tinnitus in some individuals. Excessive ear wax can also increase the amount of bacteria found in the ear, resulting in an ear infection.

So this begs the question – when should you resort to ear cleaning and when should you leave it alone? Well the simple answer is, it depends. Our ears are designed to be self-cleaning; ear wax is produced in the outer ear canal and as it slowly makes its way to the opening of the ear, it picks up bacteria and debris before it either falls out or is removed with normal washing. In normal conditions, there is really no need for ear wax removal or frequent ear cleaning since the ear does it by itself. However, there are exceptions.

Some individuals produce an excessive amount of ear wax and the ear is unable to remove it effectively. When this occurs, they can experience a feeling of “fullness” in the ear, an earache, tinnitus or ringing in the ear and even partial hearing loss. If this is the case, ear cleaning is a necessary, and vital, course of action. Another reason why ear wax removal may be necessary, is if individuals try to clean their ears and in the process push ear wax further down into the ear canal. In fact, the use of cotton swabs is the number one reason why ear wax gets impacted in the ear canal.

Ear wax removal is not as simple as sticking something down in your ear canal, swirling it around, and seeing what comes out. If you find yourself in a situation where you require a good ear cleaning, it would actually be a good idea to make an appointment with an audiologist and have it professionally cleaned; there is no risk of further damage and you can be assured that all the buildup ear wax is efficiently and effectively removed.

There are certainly home methods that you can try, such as mineral oil, ear cleaning solutions found at drugstores and irrigation. Most of them work pretty well, but certainly not as well as leaving it to a professional audiologist. One ear cleaning method you should never try is ear candling – the FDA recently issued an official statement saying that ear candling is “dangerous to health when used in the dosage or manner, or with the frequency or duration, prescribed, recommended, or suggested in the labeling thereof.” There have been reports of hair catching on fire, serious burns from dripping wax and even ruptured ear drums.

If you have a problem with excessive ear wax or suspect that your ear is plugged, give us a call and schedule an ear cleaning appointment with us. We will choose the safest technique for ear wax removal based on the severity of the impaction.

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