What is ear wax? Does it have a purpose?

What is ear wax? Does it have a purpose?

Earwax is medically referred to as cerumen. It is a naturally produced substance that protects the ear canal. It is a mixture of skin, sweat, hair, and debris held together with a fluid secreted by glands inside the ear canal (ceruminous glands). The ear canals are self-cleaning.

Its purpose is to trap dust and other small particles and prevent them from reaching and potentially damaging the eardrum. Earwax also may prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi in the ear canal. Normally, earwax is a self-draining liquid that does not cause problems. As the skin of the ear canal sheds, the wax is carried to the outer part of the ear canal and drains from the ear by itself.

Earwax ranges in color from light to dark brown or orange. In children, earwax is usually softer and lighter than the earwax produced by adults. Children produce a lot of earwax, which tapers off as they grow older. 

What is ear wax blockage (ear wax impaction)?

A blockage of ear wax (impaction) occurs when the wax gets pushed deep into the ear canal or fills the width of the canal. The most common cause of earwax blockage is using cotton ear buds in the ear canal (and other objects such as bobby pins and rolled napkin corners), which pushes the wax deeper into the ear canal. Hearing aid and earplug users are also more prone to earwax blockage.

What are the symptoms of ear wax blockage?

decreased hearing

ear pain

plugged or fullness sensation in the ear, and/or

abnormal noises in the ear.

How Is earwax diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose earwax buildup by listening to the patient's symptoms and then looking into the ear with an otoscope (ear-scope).

How Is earwax removed?

In most cases, ear wax should not be removed. It only needs removal when a person experiences earwax symptoms of blockage, deafness, ear pain, smelly discharge etc. Medical treatment for ear wax impaction involves using special instruments to remove the earwax, ear syringing or by micro suction (a special hoover for ears). Usage of wax dissolvents (OTEX, sodium bicarbonate ear drops) for at least 2 weeks prior to the consultation is recommended as it makes removal easier.

Can I use ear buds to remove wax?

No No No No No………..

When to avoid ear syringing?

In presence of ear canal / middle ear infection

In presence of ear drum perforation

How Can ear wax buildup and blockage be prevented?

Earwax blockage can be prevented by avoiding the use of cotton-tipped ear buds and other objects that push the earwax deeper into the ear canal. Individuals with hearing aids should be routinely examined for earwax impaction (cerumen impaction) every 3 to 6 months. Over the counter wax dissolvents include olive oil drops (OTEX).