Updated: Aug 22, 2022
Ear wax, or cerumen, is a yellow, grey, orange or brown material that is made in your ear canal. It is part of the defence mechanism of our body that do the following things 24/7 without us being noticed:
Protects our ear canal from bacteria, dust, foreign particles, and microorganisms by creating an acidic environment in the ear canal,
Creates a sticky environment so foreign objects and especially insects cannot go deep into our ears,
Creates a moisturised environment to protect the very delicate skin in our ear canal.
In normal conditions, wax works its way out of the canal and into the ear opening naturally. However, for one or a mix of the following reasons the ear wax may not be transported out of your ear canal naturally:
Your ear canal shed more dead skin that can be transported out fast enough
The skin of your ear canal has lost a number of its oil glands
The skin of your ear canal has grown longer and thicker hairs
Any or all the above often happen with we reach mid-age. That's why people start noticing that at around 50 or so they start having ear wax problems, which they never experienced before.
when there is a build-up of wax, there are many ways to remove it. Some are safe, and some are not. Let’s review best practices for dealing with ear wax.
Do understand that having ear wax is natural and normal. If it does not block the ear canal or impede your hearing, it can be left as is.
Do know the symptoms of ear wax build-up including itchiness, lower hearing, sense of fullness in the ear, ringing in the ears, and the feedback (or whistling) of your hearing aids.
Do seek medical help if you felt ear pain, or noticed a change in hearing, fullness in your ears. A prolonged blockage of the ear by ear wax could result in an ear infection.
Do consult with a medical professional prior to using any at-home remedies to remove ear wax. We at HearingNow suggest ear microsuction as the best option for you. Please see our article about ear wax softeners here.
Do consult with your hearing care professional about applying olive oil regularly (we only recommend medical-grade olive oil such as Earol). Applying Earol a couple of times every month could lubricate your ear canal and help transportation of the dead skin, hence helping to prevent the buildup of the ear wax. This may be a good preventive technique if you have dry skins in your ear canal.
Don’t clean your ears too much. Overcleaning can cause irritation of the skin of your ear canal and could result in infection of the ear canal.
Don’t use cotton swabs, bobby pins, keys, paper clips, etc. to clean or scratch your ears. These can cause damage to your ear canal - such as a cut, or even a puncture of the eardrum - which can lead to severe hearing problems.
Don’t use ear candles. Studies have shown ear candling introduces several risks to your ear canal and eardrum with no proven benefit.
Don’t forget to clean your hearing aids as recommended by your hearing healthcare professional. Click here for more information on how to clean your hearing aids.
If you think you may have ear wax please stop by our hearing clinic in Lordship Lane Surgery in South London so we can take a quick look at your ears. For a quick ear examination, you do not need an appointment, but you need to be patient so our audiologist can attend to you in between clinics.