What Is ear wax?
Ear wax, or cerumen as it is medical known, is a natural secretion produced by glands inside the ear canal. It is yellow or orange in colour and sticky and oily in consistency.
Ear wax is produced for many reasons:
- to protect the skin of the ear canal from dust and dirt,
- assist in cleaning and lubrication,
- provide protection against bacteria.
Once produced, ear wax slowly makes its way through the outer ear canal to the opening of the ear and is washed away.
The colour and consistency of ear wax can vary depending on these factors:
- Yellow or orange and soft – newly produced ear wax
- Darker orange or brown and hard – older, compacted ear wax
- Pale and crumbly – older ear wax which has moved to the outer ear
How do I clean my ears?
Day to day the ear wax will do its job of protecting inside your ears. It is a necessary substance and the body’s way of protecting itself. As the wax makes its way to the outer part of your ear you can just wipe it away. You must never try and clean the inside of your ears yourself by poking at them with household objects. A common one is cotton buds but some have tried their fingers, keys or pens to remove wax! All you will be doing is pushing the wax further into your ears potentially causing a blockage and opening yourself up to an infection.
Why do I have so much wax?
The amount of ear wax produced is different for everyone and the amount of wax you produce is normal for you. Some people produce very little and never have a build-up, and others produce much more which can build up inside the ear canal and cause a blockage.
Wearing hearing aids can cause a build up of wax and also wearing earplugs can push the wax deeper inside the ear.
How do I know if I need the wax removing?
If you have produced a lot of wax or it has been pushed deeper into the ear canal, a blockage can occur.
Symptoms of a blockage may include:
- Sudden, temporary hearing loss
- Pressure inside your ear
- Those with a hearing aid might find they are not working as well was they should
At this point you must not attempt to poke anything inside your ears, as you will push the blockage in deeper. The ear canal is very delicate and can easily be damaged, so it is always best to get the ear wax removed professionally.