What is Ear Wax?
Earwax is a natural waxy material produced in the ear by special glands. It helps to keep ears clean and healthy; it prevents the skin that lines the ear canal from drying out and cracking, and it keeps ears safe by trapping dirt and keeping out water to prevent infections.
Ear canals generally clean themselves as people talk, chew, and move their jaws. This can cause earwax and skin cells to move from eardrums to the ear opening where it dries and falls out of the ears. Earwax generally doesn’t cause any problems, but if earwax builds up too much it can cause blockages that can be painful and possibly cause hearing issues.
There are lots of products on sale for cleaning ears and removing wax, but do these products really work? What is the best way to clean out ears?
Problems can arise when people try to clean out earwax using their fingers or cotton buds. Cotton buds are the worst for cleaning ears.
Even though people use cotton buds to keep their ears clean, manufacturers of ear buds advise against using them with the external auditory canal. Take a look at the packet the cotton buds came in before you grab them. You’ll likely find that they come with a warning that cotton buds shouldn’t be put into your ear canal.
When you use cotton buds, you actually push the earwax deeper into the ear. It can get stuck in parts of the ear that don’t get cleaned and are unable to clean themselves. The trapped earwax can contain bacteria from the outer ear and cause possible infections. Furthermore, getting rid of wax with cotton buds can irritate the skin of the ear, which encourages people to poke around the ear even more. This creates a vicious cycle where problems only get worse. There are also some cases where the bud is pushed too far into the ear, running the risk of perforating the eardrum. This causes sudden pain, bleeding, and may cause temporary hearing loss.
Lots of people turn to ear drops for ear wax removal. Ear drops can loosen and soften up the wax so that it comes out of ears naturally. There are several different kinds of ear drops available on the market. The active ingredients for these drops tend to be sodium bicarbonate, hydrogen peroxide, or sodium chloride. Ear drops can be effective but they may be irritating for people who have sensitive skin.
Instead of using ear drops, almond oil drops and olive oil drops may be just as good as expensive commercial products.
If you are interested in using almond oil and olive oil to loosen ear wax then warm the oil up to body temperature and lie down to one side. Apply some drops using a dropper into your ear and hold the position for between 5 and 10 minutes.
Olive oil isn’t likely to irritate your ears, but it can take some time to affect ear wax and soften it up. You may have to repeat the process several times a day for up to five days to get rid of a nasty wax build-up.
If you’ve got an ongoing problem with earwax then your GP may recommend that you have an ear irrigation, also known as syringing. The process uses a tool to push pressurized water into your ear canal to dislodge clogged wax.
However, while an ear irrigation can remove earwax, it can be painful at times and could damage the ear drum.
Microsuction is a procedure that some clinics offer for earwax removal.
The procedure involves a clinician using a microscope to look into the ear canal, then using a tiny suction device to get rid of the wax they find.
Microsuction is a safe and effective technique for removing persistent earwax blockages.
However, most people have perfectly healthy and natural levels of earwax. Leave your ears alone unless you have a serious problem!