What is Earwax and why can it build up?
Many people attempt to clean their ears with cotton buds. These devices present numerous dangers, from impacted wax to perforated eardrums, making them quite harmful when used frequently.
Ear wax, also known as cerumen, consists of skin cells, dust and oily secretions from the sebaceous and ceruminous glands in the ear canal. The sebaceous glands produce sweat, and the ceruminous glands produce a fatty substance known as sebum. The process of ear wax production is called epithelial migration which is essentially a self-cleaning method of our ears. Ear wax is a natural secretion that protects the ear from harmful bacteria, foreign particles and dust; it also lubricates the ear canal, preventing it from drying.
Why shouldn’t you try DIY wax removal?
Some of us are prone to producing too much ear wax, particularly if you have high cholesterol, eat a high fat diet or suffer from excess sweating. Other factors that can cause the ear to block with wax are narrow ear canals, wearing headphones or hearing aids as they can disrupt the natural process of the wax moving out of the ear. However, the most common cause of ear wax blockage is our attempt to remove ear wax ourselves using cotton-buds or any other instrument, this only pushes the wax deeper into the ear canal and blocks the ear further.
Many people attempt to remove ear wax at home using cotton buds or other implements. What they don’t realise is that they could be:
- Unknowingly causing damage to their ear canal or eardrum
The skin lining the ear canal is very thin, it can easily bruise and bleed. The eardrum is a delicate membrane only 0.1 millimetre thick; there is an increased risk of perforating or rupturing the eardrum when attempting to remove wax yourself.
- Making the problem worse
Trying to remove ear wax using an instrument, such as a cotton bud, can push the wax further into the ear canal, this can lead to your ears becoming blocked and impacted with wax, which can result in pain, tinnitus, dizziness and leave you unable to hear.
- Missing important warning signs You cannot see inside your ear and therefore you won’t be able to detect any complications inside the ear canal, such as a perforated tympanic membrane (eardrum), infections or abnormalities of the ear which could be worsened by attempting DIY wax removal.
What can you do instead of DIY wax removal?
- Causing an infection
By inserting objects into the ear canal you could damage the skin of your ear canal which will disturb the natural levels of bacteria in your ears. This can lead to painful infections or perforations.
For many of our patients who come to us with a build-up of ear wax, the relief from having the blockage removed is instantaneous and their hearing returns to normal levels straight away. You can hear more about the benefits and after-effects of microsuction in this recent article from The Times.
- Gently clean the outside of your ears with a damp wash cloth
- Use olive oil for 3-5 days to soften the wax and let it come out naturally
- Book in to see one of our Clinical Ear Care Team for a wax removal appointment to help safely remove the wax from your ears through microsuction or irrigation. We will check your ears for any infections or perforations using our medical-grade microscopes and video otoscopes.
If you would like to make an appointment to see one of our Clinical Ear Care team then give us a call on 01473 230 330.