The role of earwax
The body produces earwax (scientifically referred to as cerumen) for a number pf reasons. These include:
- Keeps the ear lubricated
- Traps dust
- Kills any microorganisms invading the ear canal
- Traps insects and other crawling things from getting to the eardrum
- Overall, earwax keeps the ear clean
Should I have my earwax removed?
For many people, earwax causes no health problems and should be left alone. For others, there is excess production which may affect hearing. The amount and type of earwax produced is determined by genetics as well as personal or environmental factors. Excess stress is one cause of overproduction of this wax. Common symptoms of too much earwax include:
- Sense of fullness in the ear
- Hearing unusual buzzing sounds (tinnitus)
- Reduced hearing
- Ear discharge which may be smelly
When this signs and symptoms occur, it is important to see an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for examination and treatment. Remember, other ear conditions can present with these symptoms. Your healthcare provider may recommend some do-it –yourself home ear-care measures if necessary or decide to clean your ears at his office. Cleaning your ears in the wrong way can cause more problems for you including damage to the eardrum and other important ear parts.
What to do and what to avoid in managing earwax
The table below is a simple guide to the DOs and DON’Ts of earwax management. Please note that most of the DOs are done by an ENT specialist or only by you if he thinks that it is okay for you to do it.
|The DOs of earwax||The DON’Ts of earwax|
|1. Use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide rub or irrigation
2. Use earwax softeners to prevent accumulation and hardening
3. Ear irrigation by a professional
4. Regular ear examination if using a hearing aid
5. See ear specialist if you have any of the above listed symptoms
6. See your specialist in case of earache, bleeding with or without a fever
|1. Don’t clean your ears too much
2. Don’t insert cotton wool swabs and other things in your ear in an attempt to clean them
3. Avoid ear candling
4. Don’t try to do self-ear irrigation
5. Don’t allow your hearing aid to be dirty
6. Don’t ignore any persistent ear symptoms
When it’s necessary to remove earwax, the procedure is simple and short. It is inexpensive and your ENT specialist will do it in his or her office. You may arrange for an appointment to have your ear examined and have a hearing test carried out. Hearing loss from any cause can be so subtle that you may not notice it until it’s too late. I invite you to call to make an appointment with one of our physicians, audiologists or physian assistants today to get a comprehensive ear evaluation. (404) 943-0900.
Reference: This information is adapted from the current guidelines by the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation – http://www.entnet.org