A Guide to Healthy Earwax Management

What is earwax?

Earwax — also called "cerumen" — is the product of secretions in the outer ear canal by the ceruminous glands. It doesn't have a great reputation the popular mindset but it does perform a very important function in helping defend the eardrum against harmful bacteria, fungi and other debris.

Why do we need earwax?

It's hard to believe anything so icky that can be so vital to the good health of your ears, but these properties are precisely why a regular amount of ear wax is so helpful. The natural material plays a number of important roles inside the ear:

  • It Cleans

    Earwax acts as a protective barrier that stops any bacteria or debris from reaching the body. The sticky texture is perfect for capturing small particles that could get into your ear canal, which is close to how a sticker could pick up dust. Without this protective shield, the inner ear would become at risk of infection.

  • It Moisturizes

    Like a good face cream, the outer ear will become sore and flaky without it. This increases the chances of an infection in the ear. Just as lip balm stops chapped lips, earwax helps prevent our ear canals from drying out.

  • It is self cleaning

    Earwax removes itself from the ear canal by itself. It moves towards the entry to the ear and falls out after drying. You can also wash it away when showering. That's why you don't need to use outside instruments to get the wax out by yourself. 

What should we watch out for with earwax?

Although earwax performs a very useful role, occasionally we may enter issues, most likely in the form of an earwax blockage. This condition is experience in 1 in 10 children, 1 in 20 adults, and 1 in 3 older adults.

Earwax blockage is typically caused by an excess production or improper cleaning of the earwax. Remarkably, the most frequent cause of a blockage is improper earwax removal. By using foreign objects, often it's just forced deeper inside the ear rather than being washed out. Extensive use of earphones to listen to music can also trigger wax accumulation, because the earphones can prevent earwax from falling out of the ear canal normally.

Earaches, hearing loss and tinnitus are all tell-tale symptoms that result from an earwax buildup. An infection can easily form if the earwax isn't extracted. You might experience severe ear pain and a fever that doesn't abate. You should consult your doctor if you have any of these problems, as these may also be indications of a more serious disease.

Tips for managing earwax

  • Use a moist, soft towel or cloth to clear normal amounts of earwax from the outside ear, if necessary.
  • Smooth the earwax softly with drops of warm olive oil, almond oil, water or a commercial remedy to extract larger quantities of earwax or earwax.
  • Rinsing your ear gently with water.

Stay away from candle ear use, which can cause severe injury and has not been proven successful in limited clinical trials. Refrain from placing cotton swabs or other things in the ear; they can lead to injury to the ear canal and force wax deeper.
examining earwax

When you should visit us at A Better Hearing Center

You should see us when your earwax accumulates in your ears and gets too difficult to wash away easily. We'll assess the situation, identify the root cause and perform appropriate earwax removal treatment. We may manually remove the wax, using wax-dissolving substances or using a suction technique.

It doesn't have to be difficult to remove earwax, and should help you with your symptoms. If you or a loved one have concerns with earwax, please contact us for a hearing examination and tailored treatment options for your specific needs.