What Is Earwax & Why Do People Have It?

Earwax, otherwise known as cerumen, is that sticky yellow substance that you find in your ear. Specifically, earwax is a substance in the outer ear that contains oil, sweat, dirt and dead skin mixed together. People usually find earwax to be unappealing, which is why they clean their ears. However, earwax is a natural and helpful substance that the human body produces. Earwax acts as a natural barrier that keeps dirt and bacteria out of the inner ear where it could do a lot of harm.

Earwax also acts as a protective coating and moisturizer for the ear canal. Without it, the outer ear could become dry, itchy and flaky which increases the risk of irritation, inflammation and infection. Earwax also acts as a natural insect repellant. The smell of earwax works to keep bugs out of the ear, and any bugs that do make their way in to the canal become trapped before they can reach the inner ear and do more damage.

What Your Earwax
Says About You

Earwax can be different from person to person. Earwax can be wet or dry.
The colour of earwax can also vary.

The composition of an individual’s earwax can vary depending on their ethnicity, environment, age and diet, so your earwax is likely quite different than your family members’ and friends’ earwax.

Dark Brown or Black:

Typically this is older earwax that gets this colour from the dirt and bacteria it has trapped. Older adults usually have darker and harder earwax than younger people.

Dark Brown with a Red Tinge:

Typically suggests that there is bleeding in the ear canal that should be looked at by an audiologist.

Light Brown, Orange, or Yellow:

Normal, healthy earwax. Younger people and children tend to have lighter earwax.

How Much Earwax is
Too Much?

Generally, your body knows exactly how much earwax to produce. Maintaining a healthy diet, good hygiene, and moving your jaw regularly simply by talking or chewing will allow your ears to expel any excess earwax and debris naturally. However, there are certain factors that can cause your body to produce more earwax than is necessary, and you may begin to feel a sense of stuffiness in your ears, or not be able to hear as well because the excess earwax is causing a blockage in the ear canal. The following factors can contribute to excess earwax production:
  • Regular removal of earwax sends a signal to the body to produce more.
  • Regular feelings of stress and fear.
  • Having a lot of hair in the ear canal.
  • Suffering from chronic ear infections.
  • Having abnormal ear canals or osteomata (extra bone tissue around the ear).
  • Having certain skin conditions in old age.
  Excess earwax that can’t be expelled or removed effectively can lead to hearing loss and increases the risk of developing ear infections.

How to Remove
Excess Earwax: Do’s

There are some things you can do at home to help facilitate your ears’ natural ability to expel excess earwax and keep it from making its way back in.

  • Use an over-the-counter ear cleaning kit if you are not suffering from an ear infection. Earwax buildup is not painful. If there is pain in your ear, it is possibly due to an ear infection. In that case, it is better to seek help from a medical professional.
  • Regularly clean your hearing aids, earbuds, and other listening devices you insert into your ear.
  • Wash your ears with a warm, soapy wash cloth. Let warm water from the shower run over but not into your ears to soften and loosen excess earwax.

If these methods do not work, or you begin to experience sudden hearing loss, pain, or bleeding in your ears, then it’s important to see a doctor or audiologist immediately to assess and treat the issue.

How to Remove
Excess Earwax: Do Not’s

There are many things that people do to remove earwax that actually does more harm than good. If you have excess earwax, do not do these things to try and remove it:

  • Do not use Q-Tips, cotton swabs, your finger, or any sharp instrument. This can push earwax deeper into the ear canal where it can’t be expelled naturally and lead to impacted earwax, or it could even puncture your ear drum if inserted deep enough.
  • Do not try ear candling. There are no proven benefits to this treatment, and can potentially cause burns to the face, ear canal and ear drum, punctured ear drums, and wax blockages deep in the ear canal that will make matters worse.

Rather than using these methods to remove excess earwax, try the methods we’ve mentioned in the previous section first. If they don’t work, then professional earwax removal services like the ones we offer at select NexGen clinics will be your best option to clear any excess earwax safely.

Regular Ear Cleaning Is
Not Necessary

If you don’t have any issues with excess or impacted earwax, ear infections or earwax-related hearing loss, then cleaning your ears regularly (especially using methods that can lead to impacted earwax and other issues) isn’t necessary. Your body will naturally take care of cleaning themselves and maintaining a healthy amount of earwax. Dr. Max Stanley Chartrand, a hearing researcher and hearing instrument specialist, sums things up perfectly in his article “An overly clean ear can be an unhealthy ear.” Let your ears clean themselves, and if you think that earwax is causing hearing issues, contact your nearest NexGen Hearing Clinic for an appointment to see if that is the case. Select clinics offer earwax removal services as well so if earwax is affecting your hearing, they can treat it on site.

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