What is ear wax? Most people see ear wax, or cerumen, as a nuisance to be cleared away regularly. However, ear wax plays a major beneficial role in our ears. In order to look after your ears and maintain good hearing for years to come, you should be mindful of how ear wax works to keep your ears clean.
What is ear wax made of? Although it is known as ear wax, it is not really wax. It does have a waxy consistency, but it gets that from the combination of oil sweat from the outer ear, which is then mixed with dead skin cells, hair, and dirt. It also tends to be darker and drier in older adults.
This natural substance performs a number of important roles within the ear, these are:
Ear wax functions as a protective shield that prevents any dirt or bacteria from entering the inside of your body. Its sticky consistency is ideal for collecting microscopic debris that might get into your ear canal, similar to the way a sticker might pick up dust. Your inner ear would be at risk of infection without this defensive barrier.
Ear wax also moisturises your ear canal. Without it, your outer ear may turn itchy and flaky, making you more likely to become irritated and infected. In the same way that lip balm prevents chapped lips, ear wax helps protect the inside of our ears from the effects of dryness.
Ear wax naturally removes itself from the ear canal. It typically travels towards the ear canal opening, where it dries and falls out. It is also washed away during showering. In this way, ear wax doesn't usually need any help from any external instruments to get out of the ear canal.
While ear wax is important for hearing health, a common problem is too much ear wax in the ear canal. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that 2.3 million people have issues with excessive earwax every year. Indeed, ear wax removal is the most widespread ENT procedure performed in primary care with nearly 4 million ears irrigated every year.
How often should I remove ear wax? People develop various amounts of wax and all at different speeds. While a person may need regular appointments to manage their ear wax, someone else may only need occasional trips to a hearing professional for ear wax removal. Your iridologist will speak to you about your future appointments and how often they should be.
Wondering how to remove stubborn ear wax at home? You can remove your own wax or clean your ears at home safely. But, it all depends on how much build-up you have and if your symptoms aren't of the urgent kind. In all scenarios, you must speak to a hearing healthcare professional for advice before you attempt to clean your ears yourself at home. More on this later.
Hearing aids that are snugly positioned inside the ear will stop ear wax from escaping. This does not usually cause trouble, but it should be noted if your ears are more susceptible to wax build-up.
The older you are, the more likely you are to harbour excessive ear wax, experts say. This is because ear wax in older ears tends to be drier and finds it harder to leave by itself.
Many in the UK have a long-established ear cleaning habit with cotton buds, this increases the chances of forcing old ear wax further down into the ear canal, causing a blockage. Often people have real ear wax issues which need to be addressed, but cotton buds aren't the way to do it.
There are many symptoms of the over-accumulation of ear wax and ear wax buildup. You may experience one or all of these symptoms, but it is crucial not to self-diagnose. Only your GP will be able to give you an accurate verdict.
The most common cause of conductive hearing loss is excessive ear wax. A physical barrier of ear wax prevents sounds from the outer ear travelling to the inner ear. As the wax develops gradually, it can be hard to detect the effects on hearing loss.
However, the problem becomes clearer when the wax builds up to the point of obstructing the ear canal fully. Luckily, this type of hearing loss can usually be reversed by removing the offending ear wax.
What is the best way to remove ear wax? If you develop an obstruction in your ears and think that ear wax is the culprit, it is advised you follow this advice:
Do not use a cotton bud, a hairpin, or a sharp tool to try to remove the wax. When you poke at your ear with a foreign object, the ear wax pushes back into our ear canals and may cause health problems and cause the problem to escalate.
Do not try ear candling. In this practice, a tapered long candle is inserted into the ears of the individual with impacted ear wax and then the other end is lit. Those who practice ear candling claim that the fire produces suction, which draws the ear wax out of the ear. These claims are simply not true.
Furthermore, lighting objects so close to the ear constitutes a fire risk and is not recommended by the NHS. Injuries may include eye, ear and middle ear burns, eardrum damage, or further blockage of the ear canal.
A pharmacist might recommend chemical drops to dissolve the ear wax. The ear wax will break off on its own or dissolve after approximately one week. Nonetheless, do not use it if you have a hole in your eardrums (a perforated eardrum).
Most eardrops have Hydrogen Peroxide. Hydrogen Peroxide has, in the past, been labelled as an effective ingredient for ear wax removal and a good way to treat a buildup of ear wax at home. It can also be a better way to treat ear wax than water, which can lead to complications. These forms of eardrops are a safer option.
However, if you feel that you may have an ear injury you should refrain from using eardrops, as this can lead to an infection or ear pain. You should also never stick a foreign object in your ear to remove ear wax after you have used drops. Ensure you book an appointment to get your ear wax and ears checked by a hearing professional.
You can source natural ear cleaning remedies over the counter at your local pharmacy with a step-by-step guide on how to clean ears. For instance, Earol spray is a natural ear wax remover, as it is mostly made of olive oil. It also reduces the need to have micro-suction ear wax removal. The main benefit of this ear spray is it can soften and naturally remove ear wax - depending on how severe the wax has developed.
Use this option if your home treatments don’t produce results after a week. Audiologists typically have the expertise and equipment required to safely remove excess ear wax. Make sure to see your General Practitioner if you have sudden hearing loss or pain.
Although your ears actually clean themselves, there are a few things you can do to keep your ears clean and free of unnecessary debris. Use a warm soapy washcloth to wash your ears. If you let the warm water flow into your ears occasionally during your shower will also make the ear wax softer, making it easier to fall out by itself.
Even if you have no ear wax problem, it's a good idea to have your hearing checked by an audiologist annually. They can identify excess ear wax and some can even extract it for you. In any case, they will offer invaluable advice to keep your ears healthy.
In most situations, the body is great at removing excess ear wax on its own. Nonetheless, medical intervention may be necessary to stop hearing loss and a number of other underlying disorders, when impacted ear wax arises.
With a few simple hygiene measures and regular visits to healthcare professionals, however, you’ll easily learn to have ear wax work with you instead of against you.
It is common that an excess of wax buildup can cause a ringing of the ears - called tinnitus. But, why does it cause tinnitus? The buildup of wax causes pressure that affects your nerve cells in your middle and inner ear, which your brain interrupts these sounds as noise - this is actually tinnitus.
Is ear wax a sign of ear infection? As well as tinnitus symptoms you can also feel the fullness of the ear, pain and even dizziness. Whatever symptoms you have you need to seek medical treatment to get a professional diagnosis and assistance.
Looking for ear wax removal near me? If your ears are blocked with wax, you may have been told that you need your ears syringed. This used to be easy to do through your local GP but these days there are far fewer GP practices willing to perform ear syringing, mainly because the procedure is no longer part of a doctor's training.
There are three different methods of ear wax removal we can offer. The traditional syringing, the more popular micro-suction, or even endoscopic suction. The latter two are generally preferable as there is no need to apply wax softening drops for several weeks beforehand and also you don’t get wet. Suction is generally considered to be safer as well as there is no pressure being put on the eardrum.
Consultations can be performed at one of our clinics or as a home visit and will take around 10 to 15 minutes per ear. The cost is from £40 for one ear or £60 if both ears need doing.
All of our consultations are performed by registered audiologists who are fully qualified in ear wax removal. If you would like to speak to us about booking an appointment then please call us on 00800 567 7621
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