Ear wax is not disgusting! Ear wax (cerumen) is a helpful and natural part of your body’s defense. It “cleans, lubricates, and protects your ear canal by trapping dirt and slowing the growth of bacteria” (Mayo Clinic). Wax in the ears is secreted by glands in the skin that line the outer portion of the ear canal. Both the wax and the tiny hairs that line the ear canals trap dust and other particles from the environment that could damage the ear canal or eardrum, in particular. Ear wax, when it is produced, should naturally work its way out of the canal and fall out. Feel free to wipe the outer part of the ear with your bath towel to get any ear wax that may be visible. The old advice to “never put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow” is certainly good advice to follow. Ear wax becomes a problem if it completely blocks (occludes) the ear canal. Ear wax is more likely to build up when we put objects (such as cotton swab) into the ear canal. This action will simply push the wax deeper into the ear canal working against the body’s natural way of pushing it out.
Symptoms of cerumen impaction/ear wax blockage include:
- feeling of fullness in the ear
- decreased hearing
- discomfort/pressure in the ear
If you suspect wax build-up, what should you do?
I’ll give you a hint, but if you’ve ready up to this point- your first answer should not be to grab a cotton swab! Your first answer should be to talk to your doctor! Your Audiologist or Medical Doctor will take a look in your ears to ensure wax build-up is what is truly causing your symptoms. The symptoms listed above may also indicate other medical conditions that need to be treated. You, especially, should never try to self-clean your ears if you have had an ear surgery, ruptured ear drum, or are having current ear pain or drainage. Keep in mind, that a sudden onset of hearing loss is considered something that should be treated in a timely manner.
If you suspect wax build-up or have experienced a sudden change in your hearing, call our office today (636-390-6020).
Dr. Tanya McCormack
Reference: Mayo Clinic Website