Earwax: Why it's important and how to properly clean your ears!

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You Might Think Earwax is Gross – But it’s Necessary!

Earwax is perceived to be one of the grosser and seemingly unnecessary substances produced by our bodies.  There doesn’t seem to be much point of earwax other than the need to clean it out.  

But don’t pick up that cotton swab just yet!  

Medical professionals and hearing specialists will agree: there is clear evidence that earwax is useful for protecting our ears and our hearing.  Earwax plays a huge role in maintaining the health of our auditory system!  Here are a few reasons why we shouldn’t be so quick to get rid of our earwax.

The Essential Role of Earwax

Cerumen, the medical name for earwax, is comprised of sweat, oil, dead skin cells and some dirt from the environment. That may sound like a less than appealing concoction, but it’s a natural excretion from the body produced by the apocrine gland. 

The thought of what earwax is made of may be enough for many to swab it out, but here is what earwax does for your ears:

  • Earwax Acts as a Natural Barrier:

Earwax traps things like dirt and harmful bacteria from getting into our ear canals.  If left without earwax, the inner parts of our ears are at risk of infections and other damaging substances.  Earwax’s sticky composition acts like a trap for microscopic debris.  It’s important to remember that this protective layer is the part of the body’s natural defense system.

  • Earwax Is Also a Moisturizer:

Without earwax, the outer ear and canal may be prone to being dry, flaky and itchy—just like our skin if we don’t drink enough water.  The protective coating ensures that our ear canals are less likely to be susceptible irritation and, ultimately, infection.

  • Earwax Repels Insects:

It's safe to say that no one wants a bug in his or her ear.  Fortunately, the scent of earwax is a natural repellent for most insects and the stickiness also helps trap the ones that try to sneak in. 

But What About Taking Care of My Ear Health?

While earwax is healthy for ear health, you can and should clean your ears!  Earwax build up and blockages can happen if one completely ignores ear care.  So here are a few things to keep in mind to keep your ears both clean and healthy:

Things to Avoid:

1) Cotton swabs, hairpins, or other sharp instruments:  Don’t use these to clean your ears, as they are major contributors to blockages because they can push earwax back into the canal.  Earwax impactions or blockages can contribute to conductive hearing loss when earwax is preventing sound from properly reach the inner ear.  Moreover, you risk puncturing your eardrum!

 

2) Ear Candling: The popular trend of “ear candling” to remove earwax has been proven to have no real benefits.  Also, there is no evidence that it removes earwax!  Ear candling can actually cause some serious damage like burns, wax blockages, punctured eardrums and other forms of injury both mild and severe. 

These are some of the don’ts for ear care but there are other ways to help keep your ears clean and healthy!  

Here are some ear cleaning tips we recommend:

1) A warm soapy washcloth is a gentle way to wash your ears.  Also, if you let warm water run into your ears the next time you’re in the shower, it can help loosen extra earwax.  If done every now and then, this can keep ears from having too much earwax build up. 

2) Over-the-counter ear cleaning kits are also available at pharmacies if you feel you need to do a more serious cleaning at home.  Be sure to read directions thoroughly and clean your ears carefully.  Most importantly, make sure your ears are healthy and that you don’t have any eardrum perforations.  For those with hearing aids, make sure all tubes and other hearing device pieces are fully removed.  Don’t know what ear cleaning kit to buy?  Talk to your pharmacist for a recommendation!

3) Scheduling an annual hearing test and check-up with us at Sound Hearing Group is the best way to monitor your ear health!  Getting your ears checked on an annual basis can track your hearing health.  We will also be able to check your ears for blockages and safely remove them.  

Even though the production of earwax is considered a gross bodily function to some, it has a very important purpose!  Contact us at Sound Hearing Group for more information today, and to schedule a hearing test.