Most everyone suffers from a potentially embarrassing or aggravating part of themselves that they wish they could change. For some it may be spoon fingers, for others, it could be extreme body odor issues. Many of these issues are easily controlled with the help of a medical professional while others are just a part of us.
The excessive buildup of earwax is a common issue that may require the help of a professional. Hearing specialists urge patients to ignore the list of home remedies and over-the-counter medications claiming to keep earwax at bay. Understanding a medical problem is the first step to finding relief from its effects and earwax is no different in this regard.
What is earwax, exactly?
The yellowish, gray, or orange substance referred to as earwax is formally known as cerumen and mainly consists of shed skin cells inside the ear canal. The body’s natural secretion of fatty acids, alcohols, and cholesterol add themselves to the mix, resulting in the buildup of either wet or dry earwax. Excessive sweating may also play a role in those who suffer from rapid wax buildup.
What is the purpose of earwax?
As disgusting as the substance seems to be, earwax is actually of benefit to our physical well-being. By assisting in the natural cleaning and lubrication of the ear canal, cerumen also protects the skin and provides protection against outside contaminants such as water, insects. Additionally, recent studies have found that earwax provides antimicrobial protection from bacteria including Staphylococcus and E-Coli.
What medical issues are caused by earwax?
The first sign of excessive earwax buildup is usually a distinct loss of hearing. Unfortunately, most patients will wait until the earwax becomes compacted against the eardrum causing impediment to the passage of sound through the ear canal. This wax can also affect the functions of hearing aids and is estimated to actually cause 60 to 80 percent of device faults.
How do I reduce earwax buildup?
The American Academy of Otolaryngology has found that the removal of earwax should be avoided when possible. As long as a patient is not suffering ill effects from excessive buildup, simply moving the jaw will help the ears clean themselves. As cells move outward to the walls of the ear canal, the cerumen carries any particulate matter that has gathered along its path and jaw movement has been found to assist by dislodging this debris during this process.
Is there any way to clear the wax myself?
First of all, nobody should be using devices to clean their ears themselves. Q-tips are more likely to push and compact earwax up against the eardrum instead of removing it. Other items such as paper clips and bobby pins will only cause more harm than good as they can cause injury that may cause an infection within the ear canal. Only a trained audiologist is able to assess and safely remove excessive earwax buildup when necessary.
The buildup of earwax is often seen as a disgusting nuisance, but it’s actually a sign of healthy ears and, more often than not, it provides more medical benefits than health problems. However, if you or a loved one seems to be suffering from sudden hearing loss, it may be time to see an audiologist who will be able to clear the wax and restore your hearing health.