Earwax (also known as cerumen) is an important secretion produced by the human body. Many people believe that earwax accumulation is directly linked with poor hygiene and lack of cleanliness. Ironically, earwax actually helps keep your ears clean.
Earwax’s main purpose is to protect the ears from outside elements. Earwax prevents substances such as dead skin cells, dust, and debris – such as pollen or hair products – from traveling deeper into the ear, where they can cause harm. Earwax also moisturizes the ear canal and reduces irritation caused by dryness.
Some individuals aggressively clean their ears through the use of “entrenching tools” such as cotton swabs or tooth picks. These “entrenching” methods are hazardous because they unsafely remove the body’s system of defense against the outside world. Excessive swabbing can result in irritated and infected ear canals. Instead of using these tools, follow these guidelines to ensure the health of your ears and your hearing.
Many individuals are concerned with the cosmetic aspect of outer ear cerumen. Instead of swabbing your ear canals, a simple rinse with warm water and soap should get the job done and keep the earwax inside the ears safe.
If you experience serious cases of earwax build up, you may need special attention from a hearing care professional, such as an audiologist. Serious symptoms may include hearing loss, stuffiness, ringing, itching, or discharge from the ear. If these symptoms persist, it is highly recommended to NOT attempt self-treatment. Doing so may cause damage to your ears and hearing.
To prevent serious earwax accumulation, you should see a hearing care professional every 6 to 12 months. Professionals can use safe procedures to remove and/or reduce earwax buildup and can monitor the condition of your hearing. Some professionals can even recommend earwax dissolving solutions for use at home.