Ear wax, or “cerumen,” is an important product of a healthy ear. It protects the inside of the ear from foreign objects, such as dirt, smoke, and bugs. In most cases, old wax will naturally evacuate the ear canal while talking, chewing, and sleeping, only to be replaced by freshly-produced ear wax. The production of excessive ear wax is normally due to over-frequent ear wax removal, though patients have been known to report an uptick in ear wax production when they begin wearing their hearing aids, due to them being foreign objects. Your ears don’t know that they’re there to help yet!
Occasionally, ear wax becomes impacted deep in the ear canal, usually from inserting cotton swabs too deeply into the ears when there is already a minor impaction. Evergreen Audiology offers ear wax removal and ear cleaning services. We will also provide you with appropriate treatment advice or recommendations for your concerns about ear hygiene.
Is it good to have wax in your ears?
Ear wax is a necessary part of a healthy-functioning ear, serving three main functions:
1. Ear wax keeps the ears clean.
Its sticky texture traps things like dirt, smoke, smog and bacteria before they can make their way to the more sensitive parts of the ear.
2. Ear wax helps maintain the right balance of moisture in the ear canal.
This prevents the skin from getting dry and/or irritated. Dry, flaky skin, in addition to being uncomfortable and itchy, is also more vulnerable to infection.
3. Ear wax protects the ears from bugs.
Bugs find the smell of ear wax unpleasant. Should a critter make their way into the ear canal anyways, the ear wax traps them, and keeps them from reaching the eardrum.
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What does your ear wax tell you?
While all people produce ear wax, there are a few varieties. The two main types that we come across are wet and dry ear wax. Believe it or not, the consistency of our ear wax tends to differ between ethnic populations. African and Caucasian populations have wet ear wax, while dry ear wax is shared by Asian people, Pacific Islanders, and Native American populations. Young people’s ear wax tends to be lighter in color than that of older folks, whose ear wax can be brown, gray, or even black. None of these colors indicate a problem, but if you notice red in your ear wax, you should seek immediate medical attention. Red indicates that there is blood in your ear wax, which indicates a potential injury or illness.
The use of cotton swabs to remove ear wax is highly discouraged. You may pull the cotton swab out of your ear and see ear wax on it, taking this as evidence that you have successfully cleaned your ear. Unfortunately, you have likely pushed more ear wax deeper into your ear canal than you have removed on the cotton swab. Over time, this will result in impacted ear wax that will need to be removed by a doctor, like Dr. Lawson here at Evergreen Audiology. You might have impacted ear wax if you feel a “fullness” in your ears, or a new sense of hearing loss and/or tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
Ear candles are also to be avoided. While some people believe they “suck” the ear wax out of our ears, the wax that you see inside the candle at the end is actually from the candle itself. Rather than clean the ears, the ear candles actually deposit smoke into the ear canals, which can feel pleasant in the moment but are ultimately destructive, having a drying effect and boosting ear wax production. What’s more, if the suction action they are purported to have were real, there would be an extreme risk of collapsing the eardrum as a result of the pressure difference.
Just say no to the swabs and the candles for ear cleaning!
Proper Ear Wax Removal
Ear wax, under most circumstances, should be left alone to serve its function in the ear and work itself out to be replaced by fresh ear wax. Usually, jaw movements from talking and chewing are enough to encourage old ear wax to evacuate the ears. Some people have impacted ear wax from using cotton swabs, or overproduction of ear wax due to over-frequent home cleaning practices.
If you have hearing loss as a result of ear wax accumulation, we recommend our professional ear wax removal treatment. In addition to a proper ear cleaning, we’ll also make recommendations about how to care for your ears into the future.Back to Hearing Center Services