Earwax: everything you’ve always wanted to know about the body’s most mysterious substance

What do you think about when I say the word ear wax?

You are probably grossed out right? But let me set the record straight on one of the most misunderstood bodily substances!

Watch the video on earwax!

Earwax is a naturally occurring substance in the outer ear. Ingredients for a good batch of earwax include oil and sweat mixed with dirt and dead skin cells. It’s hard to believe something so unappealing can be so important to your ears’ good health, yet being sticky and smelly is exactly why a normal amount of ear wax is beneficial. Consider these attributes:

Earwax is a natural barrier which prevents dirt and bacteria from entering the innermost parts of your ears.
It acts as a moisturizer and protective coating for your ear canal.
It acts as an insect repellant.

Usually, the body knows exactly how much earwax to produce. As long as you maintain a healthy diet, have good hygiene and move your jaw (think chewing and talking), your ears will naturally expel excess earwax, dirt and debris without any intervention.

But, when you make a habit of removing earwax, that sends a signal to your body to make more, creating an excess which can interfere with hearing, put you at greater risk for developing ear infections and other complications.

Even though earwax has its benefits, blockages caused by it can cause a conductive hearing loss. If you develop a sensation of stuffiness in your ears and suspect earwax is the culprit, do not:

use a cotton swab, hairpin or any sharp instrument to attempt to remove wax yourself. Doing this can push the wax deeper into the ear canal where it is unable to be sloughed off naturally, or you could even puncture your eardrum.

try ear candling. Besides having no proven benefits, ear candling can cause burns, wax blockage, punctured eardrums and serious injury.
While your ears are self-cleaning, there are a few things you can do to keep them clean and free of excess debris:

Wash your ears using a warm, soapy wash cloth.

If your ears are healthy and you don’t have any tubes or eardrum perforations, you can try to clear excess earwax yourself using an over-the-counter ear cleaning kit.

Have your hearing evaluated annually by an audiologist.

See a doctor immediately if your home treatments don’t help or if you experience sudden hearing loss, pain or bleeding.

For the Hearing Doctors, I’m Dr. Sheri Billing.

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