Understanding Ear Wax and its Functions

Ear wax: an ally for your hearing health

As one of the body's many naturally-occurring protective substances, earwax is incredibly useful to our health and wellbeing. But what exactly is earwax? It is an oily material that is produced by glands within the ear canal, designed to trap dust, to protect the ear canal skin lining and to reduce the likelihood of bacterial infection. 

It may seem unpleasant to have but ear wax is one of the ways your body protects itself and contrary to popular belief, you’re not supposed to clean it out! Stop looking for the best way to remove ear wax because your ears have self-cleaning capabilities and whatever amount of ear wax you have now is meant to be there. Unless you have an excess of it, it’s really not necessary to get ear wax removal services or treatments. For those of you who still wonder, ‘What is ear wax and why do we have ear wax?” the answer is simple. Ear wax, or medically known as cerumen, is a naturally produced substance that protects your eardrums from external hazards. The sticky substance traps anything that tries to enter your ears that could cause infections. Simply put, it’s a defense mechanism and getting rid of it will only harm you.

Ear wax is a friend for your health

There is a good chance that you’ve been cleaning your ear wax for most of your life and coming across information telling you to do otherwise may be hard to accept. So since you have an idea of how your ear wax looks, it’s important to take note of it because its color and consistency have a lot to tell you about your health. Dark ear wax is a result of exposure to polluted environments and means that your body might have to deal with more toxins than usual. Having dark-colored ear wax also means you might have to take extra measures to mask body odors that come from having more toxins in your body. On the other hand, light-colored ear wax from yellow, orange, and brown mean that you are generally of good health. Having white or gray ear wax may be uncomfortable to have as it is flaky but it could only mean as much as certain chemicals your body is unable to produce. Should you experience discomfort, it’s best to seek professional advice.

Ear wax related issues

Earwax is usually harmless, but if you have particularly hard wax or too much compacted in your ear, it can cause some pain and discomfort. If you suffer from frequent ear infections, flaky skin near the ear or hair in the ear canals, you may find that you have a heightened risk of developing earwax problems.

If earwax comes into contact with the eardrum, it can cause discomfort and vertigo, a sensation that makes you feel as if you are moving even when standing still. If your earwax is thought to be excessive, you might need to have it removed. Amplifon have started to offer this service in some of our clinics.

  • Middle ear infection (otitis media)
  • External ear infection (otitis externa)
  • Perforated eardrums
  • Vertigo
  • Ear pain
  • Worsening of pre-existing tinnitus
  • Damage to the external auditory meatus (the tube that connects the outer and middle ear)

Earwax build up prevention and treatment

To reduce your chances of developing problems relating to earwax, we highly recommend that you avoid putting objects directly into your ears, such as cotton buds or hair pins. Even if you are using these to remove excess wax, you can easily damage your ear canal or eardrum, lodging wax further inside your ear. Instead, you can use eardrops or spray as recommended by our expert Audiologists/ Hearing care professionals. This will liquify and loosen stubborn wax, allowing it to work its way out naturally.

If your problems persist, ask to see the nurse at your local GP surgery, where an examination or ear irrigation may be recommended. You can also contact your local Audiologists/ Hearing care professionals for any additional support to ensure that your hearing health is well cared for as well as viewing our range of hearing aids.

To discover what earwax is made of or to check the signs of excessive wax, read our causes, symptoms and treatments pages.

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