Everything You Need to Know About Earwax

doctor examining petient's problem with earwaxCerumen, the medical term for earwax, is a shiny, sticky and oily substance that the wax glands in your ear canal’s outer area produce. Your body naturally produces earwax to help protect, lubricate and yes, clean your ears. Sometimes, however, your body can produce too much earwax that it builds up inside your ears and may need to be removed manually.

Earwax is essentially made up of 20% to 50% fat. Its main job is to coat your ear canal and moisturize it, keep dirt, dust and all sorts of debris from getting inside the ears, and ward off infection. Majority of individuals produce enough earwax, but if you don’t have enough of it, your ears will become dry and vulnerable to infection.

It normally falls out of your ears once it has done its job, migrating from the canal to your ear’s opening, where it will then dry up and eventually fall out. While the exact reason for this is unknown, some individuals naturally make more earwax than other individuals. In some instances, too much earwax could build up in your ear canal and lead to the following symptoms.

  • A sensation of fullness inside your ear
  • Ear pain
  • Hearing loss
  • Ringing in the ears or tinnitus
  • Itchiness
  • Discharge from the affected ear
  • Ear odor
  • Ear infection
  • Coughing

Why Do You Have Excessive Earwax?

Many different things could cause excess earwax, the most common being that some people naturally have more earwax than others. Age is also a factor because wax easily hardens as you age and accumulates inside the ear.

Also, those with narrow or hairy ear canals are more prone to excess earwax. In addition, wearing earplugs, hearing aids and the like can push earwax further in.

Can You Remove Excess Earwax Safely?

Earwax removal is a normal part of the hygiene routine for most people. Usually, they use cotton buds or metal ear cleaners to remove their excess earwax. Done incorrectly, however, this could push the earwax buildup deeper inside the ears, block the eardrum, lead to ear canal irritation, or worse, result in the eardrum rupturing.

To clean your ears safely, use a wet washcloth to wipe your outer ears and wash them when showering, but never put anything inside your ears. If your earwax buildup is particularly hard, you can put a couple of drops of baby oil, mineral oil, glycerin, carbamide or hydrogen peroxide to soften and get rid of the buildup.

When Should You Get Professional Help?

doctor examining patient's ear

Visit your local ENT doctor in Denver if you have excessive earwax, hardened earwax buildup, and you’re experiencing the symptoms mentioned above. Your doctor will inspect your ears using a lighted device known as an otoscope and then safely remove the earwax buildup using a suction device, water irrigation, eardrops or other methods. If you’re prone to earwax buildup, it’s best that you have your doctor examine your ear and remove any buildup at least every six months.