Incorrect Cleaning Methods Or Excess Cleaning
You may think youre helping remove earwax by inserting cotton swabs and other objects into your ears. These can irritate and scratch the sensitive skin on the inside of your ears, triggering even more wax production. Youre also pushing wax and other dirt further into your ear canal and risking damage to your eardrum.
In addition to method, the frequency of cleaning can also cause excess earwax buildup. Even safe cleaners like hydrogen peroxide or over-the-counter drops can remove too much earwax and leave dry, irritated skin. The body reacts by creating even more to protect and coat the ear canal, and youre back to square one. Limit these cleaning methods to once or twice a month if you notice this effect.
What Is Wax Blockage Of The Ear Canal
In the outer part of the ear canal, cells produce a wax called cerumen that traps particles of dust and dirt. The wax also repels water, protecting the delicate eardrum from damage. The wax is moved outward gradually by the lining of the ear canal, carrying any dirt it has trapped. Eventually, the wax dries and falls out of the ear in small, unnoticeable flakes.
Normal production of earwax is healthy and good for your ears. If too much wax is being produced, it can block the ear, but more commonly, the ear becomes blocked because of improper ear care and ear cleaning. If you push cotton swabs, pencils, your finger or other objects into your ear canal to try to remove wax, the force can push the wax further into the ear and compress it against the eardrum. Earwax blockage, also called cerumen impaction, is a common cause of temporary hearing loss.
Earwax Treatment And Self
If you donât have a perforation or a tube in your eardrum, your doctor may recommend that you try an earwax removal method at home.
You can soften earwax by putting a few drops of baby oil, mineral oil, glycerin, hydrogen peroxide, or over-the-counter wax softening drops such as Debrox or Murine into the affected ear canal. That may be enough to get the wax to come out.
After youâve tried a wax softener for a few days, use a bulb-type syringe to gently flush the ear with warm water. The water should be at body temperature to help prevent dizziness.
You can buy over-the-counter kits that combine softening drops with an irrigation system. Your doctor can explain which one might work for you and how to use it.
It may take several tries to get home treatment to work. If it doesnât, see your doctor.
Ear candling is not recommended. The procedure uses a hollow cone made of paraffin and beeswax with cloth on the tapered end. The tapered end is placed inside the ear, and an assistant lights the other end, while making sure your hair does not catch on fire. In theory, as the flame burns, a vacuum is created, which draws the wax out of the ear. Limited clinical trials, however, showed that no vacuum was created, and no wax was removed. Furthermore, this practice may result in serious injury.
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What Causes Excessive Earwax
Typically the body removes earwax and dead skin through the action of chewing or talking. Jaw movement causes the earwax to move from your inner ear towards your outer ear.
About 12 million people get treated for excess earwax every year in the United States. Children and older adults are most at risk for earwax blockage, known as impaction. Reasons for earwax buildup include:
- Trapped earwax and dead skin: Can be the result of the normal aging process can also be caused by harmful earwax removal methods
- Narrow ear shape: Can be affected by the shape of an individual’s ear, scar tissue from multiple and/or severe ear infections, or increased amounts of hair in the ear canal
- Overproduction:Can be the result of trauma, trapped water, and other unknown causes
Its Possible To Clean Earwax Out Safely
Its not done by shoving a cotton swab in the canal, though. There is a reason mom said not to put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear.
First, if you have diabetes or chronic problems with your ears, let the doctor do the cleaning for you. If you do decide to do it yourself, add a few drops of baby oil to the ear canal to soften built-up earwax and, hopefully, dislodge it. Once the wax is soft, you can use a rubber-bulb syringe to run room temperature water through the ear. When the water is in place, tilt your ear to the side and allow it to drain out.
Dry the outside of your ear with a clean towel. If you are prone to swimmers ear or ear infections, a few drops of rubbing alcohol will ensure all the water dries up.
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Impacted Earwax Buildup: How To Remove
Even though earwax has its benefits, blockages can cause conductive hearing loss. If you develop a sensation of stuffiness in your ears and suspect earwax is the culprit:
- Buy an over-the-counter ear cleaning kit if your ears are healthy. Ask a doctor for help if you have ear tubes or if you have any ear pain. Earwax buildup is not painful.
- Regularly clean your hearing aids or any other devices you put in your ears.
- Do not clean ears with a cotton swab, hairpin or any sharp instrument in an attempt to remove wax yourself. This can push the wax deeper into the ear canal where it is unable to be sloughed off naturally, or you could even puncture your eardrum.
- Do not try ear candling. Besides having no proven benefits, ear candling can cause burns, wax blockage, punctured eardrums and serious injury. Instead, follow general rules for keeping ears clean .
When Should I See My Doctor
If you are uncertain whether you have a hole in your eardrum, consult your physician prior to trying any over-the-counter remedies. Putting eardrops or other products in an ear with a perforated eardrum may cause an infection. In the event that the home treatments discussed in this leaflet are not satisfactory, or if wax has accumulated so much that it blocks the ear canal , your physician may prescribe eardrops designed to soften wax, or it may be washed or vacuumed out. Occasionally, an otolaryngologist may need to remove the wax using microscopic visualization.
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Watch For Signs Of Ear Infection
Dogs and cats are known to develop bacterial ear infections, fungal ear infections, and ear mite infestations. If you notice what appears to be excessive wax in the ears, use a cotton ball to wipe the wax out of the ear and then take a look in the ear.
If there is any odor to the ear, or if the ear is red, swollen, painful, warm to the touch, or looks different than the other ear, there is a high likelihood that your pet has an external ear infection.
Other signs to watch for are:
Sensitivity and reluctance to having the ears touched, which can signal pain
Excessive scratching or digging at the ears
Rubbing the ears against the ground or furniture
Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible for testing and treatment, as these infections are uncomfortable at best, and at worst, horribly painful and permanently injurious if allowed to progress.
Image via Suda Productions/Shutterstock.com
Is Earwax Normal For Pets
A common question asked by pet parents is how much earwax is too much, and if they see earwax, if they should clean it from their pets ears.
If the ear appears normal and healthy on exam and there is no sign of infection, then there is no reason to clean the ear.
In most dogs and cats, the ear is a well-balanced organ that has a good system in place to take care of itself. If you start cleaning ears, you could upset the balance within the ear , which can predispose the ear to infection. If your pet has normal ears, you can leave them alone.
If you arent sure whether your pets ears are healthy or if there is too much earwax, consult with your regular veterinarian, who can give you accurate information on your pets ear health.
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Getting Help From Your Doctor
Most people dont need frequent medical help for earwax removal. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic says that a once-a-year cleaning at your annual doctors appointment is usually enough to keep blockage at bay.
If youre unable to clear the wax or if your ear becomes more irritated, seek medical treatment. Other conditions may cause symptoms of earwax buildup. Its important that your doctor can rule those out. They can use an otoscope, a lighted instrument with a magnifier, to see clearly into your inner ear.
To remove wax buildup, your doctor may use:
- a curette, which is a small, curved instrument
Follow your doctors instructions for aftercare carefully.
Most people do well after earwax removal. Hearing often returns to normal immediately. However, some people are prone to produce too much wax and will face the problem again.
How Do You Relieve The Pressure In Ears
The following steps show how to relieve ear pressure using the Valsalva maneuver:
- Close your mouth and pinch your nostrils with your fingers. Then take a deep breath.
- Exhale through your nose to equalize air pressure in your middle ear.
- You should hear a popping sound that indicates the opening of the Eustachian tubes.
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The Genesis And Treatment Of A Common Ear Condition
Some earwax is good for your ears, so often the best policy is to leave it alone. And a few drops of water may be all you need to get rid of a blockage.
Earwax, a bodily emanation that many of us would rather do without, is actually pretty useful stuff in small amounts. It’s a natural cleanser as it moves from inside the ear canal outward, gathering dead skin cells, hair, and dirt along the way. Tests have shown that it has antibacterial and antifungal properties. If your ears don’t have enough earwax, they’re likely to feel itchy and uncomfortable.
What Is Earwax Made From
Earwax, or cerumen, is still a widely misunderstood substance. Our bodies excrete some icky stuff, but earwax, though it may fit the bill, actually has many benefits to your ears overall health.
But what is earwax made out of? And how is earwax formed?
Primarily, it consists of sweat, oil, dead skin cells, and dirt. These ingredients come together and form a layer of waxy residue around the ear canal.
It can be dark brown, yellow, even white and flaky. Wet earwax is more commonly found in Caucasians and Africans. Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Asians tend to have more dry earwax.
The consistency of earwax can also depend on age. When you were a child, your earwax wouldve been soft and light coloured. As we get older, it can become harder, darker, and more brittle.
Some people produce more than others, and many factors can increase production. A lot of hair in the ear canal, wearing hearing aids, excess stress, ear infections, and skin conditions are a few examples of what can affect cerumen production.
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When To See Your Gp
Contact your GP surgery if you have particularly troublesome symptoms or eardrops haven’t helped after three to five days.
Your GP or practice nurse will look inside your ears to check if they’re blocked and might carry out some simple hearing tests.
They may suggest using eardrops for a bit longer, or they may carry out a minor procedure called ear irrigation to clean out your ear canal.
If these treatments aren’t suitable or don’t help, your GP may refer you to the ENT department of your nearest hospital for more specialised treatments such as microsuction or an aural toilet.
What Are The Treatment Options
Cleaning a working ear can be done by washing it with a soft cloth, but do not insert anything into the ear. Ideally, the ear canals should never have to be cleaned. However, that isnt always the case. The ears should be cleaned when enough earwax gathers to cause symptoms or to prevent a needed assessment of the ear by your doctor. This condition is call cerumen impaction.
Most cases of ear wax blockage respond to home treatments used to soften wax. Patients can try placing a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or commercial drops in the ear. Detergent drops such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide may also aid in the removal of wax.
Irrigation or ear syringing is commonly used for cleaning and can be performed by a physician or at home using a commercially available irrigation kit. Common solutions used for syringing include water and saline, which should be warmed to body temperature to prevent dizziness. Ear syringing is most effective when water, saline, or wax dissolving drops are put in the ear canal 15 to 30 minutes before treatment. Caution is advised to avoid having your ears irrigated if you have diabetes, a hole in the eardrum , tube in the eardrum, skin problems such as eczema in the ear canal or a weakened immune system.
Why Is It Dangerous to Use Swabs to Remove Earwax?
When Should I Talk to a Doctor?
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How Do Ear Wax Softeners Work
Olive oil works to soften the wax and release it from the walls of the ear canal, making it easier to remove with microsuction. Ear wax softening drops will soften the wax, as well as lubricating it a little. When used in conjunction with micro suction, it is an extremely effective method for remedying blocked ears.
It Matters Where Your Family Is From
Asian and non-Asian ears produce different types of earwax according to scientists at the Monell Institute in Philadelphia. Chromosome 16 is home to the “wet” or “dry” gene for earwax – with the wet variant dominating.
A small change in the gene ABCC11 is related to both the dry-type earwax and also for reduced underarm body odour found in Chinese, Japanese and Korean individuals.
The American study measured the concentration of 12 volatile organic compounds found in earwax – in groups of East Asian and white men.
In 11 out of the 12 compounds the Caucasian earwax had greater amounts of odorous compounds.
Kate Prigge from Monell says their analysis of the smell of ear wax is a first step towards finding out whether they might eventually use it to detect disease.
The institute studies a rare genetic disorder called maple syrup urine disease, which can be easily diagnosed through the scent of earwax compounds. Swabbing someone’s ears is a much simpler and cheaper process than doing a genetic test.
Dr Prigge does realise how odd her choice of career might sound. She says: “You tell someone that you work in human body odour you get a good laugh,” says Prigge. “But when you explain the importance behind it or how much information can be gained in these types of studies, people often understand why.”
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When To Call A Professional
If you have never had earwax blockage and are unsure what is causing the problem, visit your doctor. Other common causes of hearing loss include:
- Exposure to repetitive loud noises, such as gunshots or trucks
- A tumor on the hearing nerve called an acoustic neuroma
A doctor or nurse can help when home treatments fail to relieve a wax blockage. A doctor should treat your blockage if you have had a ruptured eardrum in the past.
The Side Effects Of Excessive Earwax
But for many people, earwax is manifestly too much of a good thing. An ear canal plugged up with earwax can cause earaches, infections, and other problems. If it gets lodged in a certain way, earwax can cause a cough by stimulating the branch of the vagus nerve that supplies the outer ear. And, not surprisingly, an excess of earwax can result in some loss of hearing.
Guidelines from the American Academy of OtolaryngologyHead and Neck Surgery stress a let-it-be attitude toward earwax and warn against removal unless the earwax is causing a problem. Of course, sometimes it’s difficult to tell if the wax is the source of a problem without removing it and seeing whether the problem goes away.
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What Is Earwax Buildup
Earwax is produced by glands in the ear canal. Although scientists are still not completely sure why we have earwax, it does trap dust and other small particles and prevent them from reaching and possibly damaging or infecting the eardrum. Normally, the wax dries up and falls out of the ear, along with any trapped dust or debris. Everyone makes ear wax, but the amount and type are genetically determined just like hair color or height. Smaller or oddly shaped ear canals may make it difficult for the wax our ears make naturally to get out of the canal. This can lead to wax impactions. This is earwax buildup.
The Outer Ear And Canal
The outer ear is the funnel-like part of the ear you can see on the side of the head, plus the ear canal .
The ear canal is shaped somewhat like an hourglass-narrowing part way down. The skin of the outer part of the canal has special glands that produce earwax. This wax is supposed to trap dust and dirt particles to keep them from reaching the eardrum. Usually the wax accumulates a bit, dries out and then comes tumbling out of the ear, carrying dirt and dust with it. Or it may slowly migrate to the outside where it can be wiped off. The ear canal may be blocked by wax when attempts to clean the ear push wax deeper into the ear canal and cause a blockage. Wax blockage is one of the most common causes of hearing loss.
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