Ear wax is a natural substance produced in the ears to help protect them from environmental harms and bacteria. The substance, technically called cerumen, lubricates the ear canal while protecting the skin inside the ear canal from things like germs, dust, and water from harming this delicate area.
Ear wax oil is produced by small hairs in the ear that then collects dead skin cells and other hairs, leading to the formation of ear wax. Under normal production circumstances, ear wax moves out of the ear through motions of the jaw, although it can build up and lead to hearing loss or earaches, as well as a few other symptoms.
Earwax can be a range of consistencies and colors, most of which are harmless and don’t signal any type of disorder. However, some earwax conditions could be an indicator of something else going on which you should have looked at by your doctor. Wax can be wet or dry and range in color from light yellow to dark brown. The color typically corresponds to the age of the ear wax – the longer it’s had to collect dust, the darker it will appear. Its been shown that those of European and African descent typically have wet earwax while Asian and Native American descendants’ wax tends to be dry.
If your earwax looks more like a discharge or it contains pus, you should contact your medical provider. You should also seek medical help if your ears are bleeding or you find caked-on earwax on your pillow after waking up.
An extremely common problem is when earwax builds up too much, blocking the ear canal and leading to hearing loss, fullness in the ear, and even earache. Ear wax builds up when it isn’t cleared out as quickly as it’s being made, and can be made worse by pushing things like cotton swabs or your own fingers into the ear to try to clean it out. This can cause it to become “impacted,” and further pressure can damage the eardrum or other delicate parts of the ear. Instead, it should be removed using at-home or medical treatments.
There are a few methods for removing ear wax. The first is through softening it to make it easier to move through the ear or be removed physically. You can buy a dedicated earwax softener at the drug store or use solutions around the home to soften it. Some ear wax softeners are:
- Baby oil
- Mineral oil
- Salt water
- Hydrogen peroxide
To soften earwax, you put a few drops into the ear and lie with the treated ear facing up to allow the solution to permeate the buildup. It then may be easier to remove it using physical techniques, such as irrigation or simply pulling it out with forceps.
Do not try to scrape out your own earwax. This can make the problem worse or cause injury to your ear. Do not use ear candles either. These devices claim to remove ear wax by burning it like a candle, with a wick stuck in the ear that is then lit on fire. This can cause burns to the outside of the ear and does not work.
Impacted ear wax is a leading cause of hearing loss. If your hearing in one or both ears has changed suddenly, it may be due to earwax buildup or it may be something more permanent. Find out if you’re affected from hearing loss by scheduling a comprehensive hearing test, then calling Georgia Hearing Aid Factory Outlet to find a hearing aid that’s perfectly tailored to your new lifestyle. Our three convenient locations are ready to help patients in cities such as Athens, Whitehall, Jasper, and more.