Ear Wax Removal
When it comes to ear health and cleanliness, less is more. Our ears are a remarkably sufficient self-regulated system. We’ve all heard the directive, “Don’t put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear” before - most likely from a teacher or parent or nurse. And yet, it is still a common practice for people to use cotton swabs after they shower, to dry out their ears. Some people believe cotton swabs are useful in removing earwax. However, this is a myth of our modern age. In fact, cotton swabs do not effectively remove earwax – rather, they push wax further into the ear, which may cause earwax to be impacted. Here we take a look at the role of earwax in your ears’ health and provide safe ways to remove earwax, if necessary. If you are experiencing signs of impacted earwax, excess earwax or hearing loss, we invite you to schedule a consultation with one of our licensed Audiologists.
We all know what earwax looks and feels like, but what is it, exactly? Our bodies naturally produce cerumen, the medical term for earwax, to protect our ears from dirt, dust, and debris – even small insects! The stickiness of cerumen actually traps debris from our external environment and prevents it from entering our inner ear. Earwax also provides bacterial prevention and lubrication within the ear. As a water-repellent substance, earwax manages the moisture levels in our ears – it prevents too much water from entering our inner ear, which in effect helps prevent ear infections.
The production and eradication of earwax happens naturally. Earwax is produced and regulated by the apocrine glands, which also regulate our perspiration. Earwax comes in two forms: wet and dry. Wet earwax is most commonly found in Caucasian and African populations, while dry earwax is found amongst Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Asian populations.
Earwax is lighter in color when we are younger, and as we age, it tends to grow darker in color as it traps more bacteria and dirt. Earwax could also signal an injury – if you find traces of blood in your earwax, it is important to seek medical attention.
While it has become a popular practice to “remove” earwax with cotton swabs, the reality is that earwax is self-regulating. With the natural processes of talking or chewing, the movement of the jaw loosens earwax and it is expelled naturally. In other words, it is generally unnecessary to do any work to remove earwax. However, there are instances in which earwax removal is necessary.
It is important to note that there are only a few home remedies recommended by medical professionals for safe earwax removal.
Do not use cotton swabs to remove earwax.
Using cotton swabs actually pushes earwax deeper into the ear canal, making it more difficult for your ears to self-regulate and expel earwax. In turn, this could lead to bigger ear health issues, such as the buildup of bacteria and fungi or the accidental rupture of an eardrum.
Do not use ear candles to remove your earwax.
While ear candles are a popular alternative medicine product advertised to remove earwax naturally, they are in fact ineffective and could be dangerous. Ear candles put you at risk of burns – both from the flame and wax – and of damaging your ear canals and ear drums.
Then how SHOULD one clean their ears?
Medical professionals recommend using a soft, clean cloth to clean the outer parts of your ear. Over-the-counter earwax removal kits use liquid formulas that can be dropped into the ear to soften the earwax.
If you prefer a more natural route, you may use a few drops of mineral oil in the ear to loosen up the earwax. Other over-the-counter solutions include ear syringing, in which saline solution or water are used to flush the ear. It is crucial to follow the instructions and to proceed with care and caution.
When to visit an Audiologist
If you have an earache, feel a “fullness” in the ear, or feel that your ears are plugged, you may want to have your ears checked for impacted earwax. Additionally, itchiness and the presence of unusual odors or discharge in the ear may require earwax removal. Oftentimes, impacted earwax might also cause dizziness or balance issues. If your hearing is affected by impacted earwax, visit us at Green Tree Hearing and Audiology for safe, professional earwax removal services.
Professional Earwax Removal Services
Most people may never have their earwax removed by hearing specialists. However, there are approximately 12 million Americans a year who seek professional services to remove impacted earwax or earwax buildup. Most people will seek medical help for earwax removal due to congenital conditions which cause abnormally rapid buildup of earwax – or because of changes in their hearing and ear canal due to excessive use of cotton swabs.
When you visit us at Green Tree Hearing and Audiology, we begin by checking your ear canals with an otoscope, an instrument that allows us to look deep inside your ears. This is a quick and painless process. We also check to see if there is any injury to the ear canals or the eardrum.
Once we’ve identified the impaction, we use drops to soften the earwax. Depending on the severity of the issue, we may use a curet (a small, curved instrument) to carefully remove the earwax manually. For more severe cases, we might use a suction. Another option is to use a syringe filled with saline solution to flush out the wax. If you are experiencing changes in your hearing, and you believe it may be due to earwax buildup, visit us at Green Tree Hearing and Audiology for safe, professional earwax removal services.
If you’re experiencing issues related to earwax and/or hearing loss, the first step toward better hearing health is a comprehensive hearing evaluation. At Greentree Hearing and Audiology, a comprehensive diagnostic hearing evaluation consists of a few non-invasive and painless steps. Contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our friendly Audiologists in St. Louis.