Ear Wax

Ear wax is a normal product of the ear and is not a sign of your ears being dirty. Essentially, ear wax is old, dead skin mixed with oil from glands located at the entrance of the canal. These glands secret an oily, sticky substance we call cerumen, which generally is seen as tiny pearly drops on hairs at the entrance to the canal, if you could see it yourself.

Other particles are also found in the canal and are mostly old dead skin and keratin but also dirt and other matter from the outside. These adhere to the sticky substance we call wax and when the lining in the ear canal slowly moves out, this load of ear wax, old skin and dirt, being softened by the oil, being slowly exposed to the air, dries, making it fall out like flaky skin. You simply use a washcloth at the opening to clear it away.

The ear canals are thus for most of us self-cleaning and there is very seldom a need to use any tools such as Q-tips, picks, candles, vacuums, nails, hairpins, long fingernails and the list goes on. These bad habits in many cases make it a problem by pushing the wax further in, bulldozing and often scraping the lining back into the bony portion, to the point the ear canal becomes raw, sore with redness, irritation and bleeding. Imagine, some people do this every day as a habit, never allowing their ear canals to find their normal state and do their job. This vicious cycle makes the problem continually worse.

There are certainly people, young and old, who have problems with wax plugging up their canals. Children have small ear canals, especially as babies. The body knows it needs to make the ear wax flow like lava and compensates for that by increasing the production of the oily, golden colored cerumen. As we grow, the ear canals become larger, potentially becoming less prone to getting plugged up by wax and the oil secretions slow down.

Curvy and crooked ear canals is sometimes also a problem, especially as we age. For some people there is a significant shift between the cartilaginous and bony portions of the ear canal causing a narrowing, a strait for particles to get stuck. There is also a tendency for the ceruminous glands to slow down their secretions, making the lining dryer and not being moved about so easily.

Finally, people who use hearing aids, ear plugs and those who cannot leave their ear canals alone but constantly have problems and irritate them daily by probing around with the above-mentioned tools, have the need for more frequent professional ear cleaning.

Professional ear canal cleaning is best done using a medical quality earscope, a.k.a. otoscope, best performed with magnification and allowing the examiner to remove any impacted wax without causing injury to either the lining of the ear canal or eardrum. Probing around blindly on your own is not in your best interest. Leave that to trained medical professionals.

Leave a Comment