The ins and outs of ear wax.
Did you know that ear wax has some really beneficial medicinal purposes – but that it can also reduce your hearing and have long term effects on your hearing health?
What is the purpose of ear wax?
Ear wax is naturally produced by the glands in the outer third ear of your ear canal, and it helps to lubricate and protect your ears from water, small pieces of debris, and even insects. It also has antibacterial properties and helps to repel dirt. Ear wax is not “dirty”, nor can it be prevented, and is generally self-cleaning, but can, in some instances, build up and cause problems with your hearing health and comfort.
What causes ear wax?
A person can suffer from a build up of ear wax if their ear canals are narrow or have suffered damage, there is lots of hair present in the canal, the canal is inflamed, or the person has a condition affecting their scalp or the area around the ear. There are also studies that suggest you may increase the build up of ear wax if you are a regular user of earphones – especially ear pods.
How do we know we have ear wax?
There are several indicators that you might have a build up of ear wax, such as a reduction in your ability to hear, a muffled quality of hearing or even some buzzing, you may get earache or even feel be feeling dizzy and sick as it could affect your balance – similar to vertigo. You may even get the feeling that you have some wax in your ear, or experience pain, itching, discharge and odour.
What can we do to remove ear wax?
There are some “old wives’ tales” or traditional “remedies” that have been passed on in families through generations, however AT NO POINT will we ever recommend that you insert ANYTHING into your ear canal to remove blockages. A common default for sufferers is to poke around in the ear with a cotton bud in the hope of solving the problem, but there is a very real danger that this will make the matter worse by pushing the wax more deeply in which could expose the sufferer to even worse impairment and damage. However, the option of 2/3 drops of warm olive oil (although it should really be medical grade oil) inserted for a few days MAY help. Alternative remedies may also include ‘ear candles’ which are hollow tubes that are lit at one end whilst inserted in the ear, and non-medical ear vacuums. There is no clinical evidence to support their success, and one can only imagine the further possible dangers of inserting a lit candle in your ear! Ergo, we only suggest that you use one of the two clinical options detailed below.
What EFFECTIVE treatments are involved in ear wax removal?
The two most commonly offered resolutions for ear wax removal are irrigation (gently flushing the wax out with water) and microsuction (sucking the wax out of the ear). Irrigation involves the soft pulse of water being passed into the ear to loosen the wax and then flush it away. Microsuction requires the insertion of a soft tube into the ear and a gentle suction is then used to remove wax and debris from the ear canal. Both procedures are conducted by us in our Covid compliant clinic and are painless and produce immediate results – we can even show you our success in our before and after photographs (should you so desire!).
It’s also worth noting here that wax removal is extremely important for hearing aid users as blocked ears and hearing aids simply don’t mix!
What happens if we don’t remove ear wax?
If you don’t remove your ear wax, it’s possible that a build-up can lead to infection, and all of the incumbent issues surrounding this. You may also suffer from increased pain, dizziness and even hearing loss. A full hearing assessment will determine if these issues are indeed caused by ear wax or have another diagnosis.
Generally, ear wax is a great protector of our ears and hearing health. However, build up is bad and can have some very negative impacts on our hearing health, which could, in essence, affect our general health and safety.
Steven Hale Hearing is an award-winning Audiologist committed to improving your hearing health. He is waiting for your call for help.