Most people don’t give earwax a second thought except when it becomes unsightly. However, have you ever stopped to think about what earwax is? It’s that sticky sticky substance in your ears but it actually plays an important role in our hearing health.
Earwax is not actually wax
We call it earwax because its sticky thick texture resembles wax, but it’s technically called cerumen, a substance which combines dead skin cells, dirt, and sebum. What is sebum?! Well, it’s a sticky oily substance the body produces help support moisturization, consisting primary of a collection of fat molecules, waxes, and squalene, which helps to strengthens the skin barrier and helps the skin to retain moisture.
The essential role of earwax
Earwax is essential in keeping the inner ear moisturized and also acts as an antimicrobial agent. If cuts or lesions form in the inner ear which are difficult to access, then earwax helps them heal as well as helps your skin stay clean of impurities and pollutants.
On top of all of this, earwax acts as a sort of self-cleaning, conveyor belt. During the day, dust, dirt, and all sorts of tiny particles are sure to enter your ear canal. Due to the sticky nature of earwax, it traps dirt, dust and just about any other tiny thing which has found its way into your ear and slowly moves it to the outer ear. Every time we chew or speak, the movement of the jaw sends foreign substances towards the outer ear.
Earwax is essential for ear health, but it can get off balanced and produce more than we need. When too much dirt gets trapped in the ear or if someone sticks something in their ear, often in the name of trying to clean the ear, it can push the earwax together in the ear canal until it becomes impacted. In many instances this can not only be uncomfortable but can inhibit your ability to hear sounds as they are blocked by earwax to make it to the brain where sounds are identified, and speech is interpreted. The good news is that hearing ability can go away when the blockage is cleared.
You should never stick anything into your ears
It’s recommended to avoid sticking anything smaller than your elbow into your ear canal to clean them. For years the standard for self-cleaning ears has been cotton swabs. While these little sticks with a bit of cotton on each end are safe for removing earwax from the cracks of the outer ear ( the part we can see) it should never be inserted into the ear canal. Not only can using cotton swabs cause impactions but they can damage any part of the inner ear including puncturing the eardrum or putting pressure on the tiniest bones in the entire body known as the ossicles. Damage to the inner ear can often put you at risk for permanent hearing damage, so it’s important to use caution and learn the safe way to clean ears.
So, what is the safe way to clean your ears?!
In some instances, an impaction or other buildup of earwax should be left to professionals who will often flush out your ears. In some instances, using home remedies and materials can do the trick. All you must do is loosen earwax every now and then. You can achieve this by inserting a few drops of mineral oil to each ear. Let it settle into each ear for 15 minutes each, taking turns to rest on your side while the oil loosens the wax. Next, it’s time to take a hot shower. Usually, the hot steam of the shower is all you need to loosen some build ups of earwax allowing it to flow outwards towards your outer ear. Simply wipe it away with a damp cloth after you get out of the shower.
Have your hearing tested regularly
If you are having issues hearing it could signal that you have a buildup of earwax which is causing the problem. However, there are several other causes of hearing loss, many which are much more permanent and can affect your quality of life. To find out more, start by scheduling an appointment with us today!