Earwax is not a favorite household conversation topic, unless, of course, you’re one of those people who likes to talk about unpleasant things. While earwax is one bodily secretion that tends to get a bad rap, it does have a useful purpose. And, the earwax removal process doesn’t have to be gross or ugly!
How does earwax help?
When present in the right location, and in the right quantity, earwax actually does many things that most people are not even aware of. Here are a couple of the most important functions of earwax, as touted by the Harvard Health Letter from Harvard Medical School:
- Natural cleanser – As it moves through the ear canal, earwax picks up debris like dead skin cells, dirt, or hair. By pushing these particles outward, it keeps them from affecting the intricate inner workings of the ear.
- Antibacterial and antifungal properties – Earwax helps keep unwanted bacteria and fungi at bay.
- Adds to your overall comfort – Remember the story “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” … with too much earwax, you’ll likely experience pain or discomfort. With not enough earwax, your ears could feel itchy or uncomfortable. But, when it’s just right, you’ll be the most comfortable.
Safe earwax removal techniques
As long as it’s not causing pain, discomfort, or any other problems, like hearing loss, you can generally leave earwax alone. Let it do all of its jobs and keep your ears healthy!
For many people, however, too much earwax can be a problem. Not only is it uncomfortable, it can lead to impaired hearing as well. For mild to moderate blockages, here are a few tips for safe earwax removal:
- Saturate a cotton ball with water, saline, or hydrogen peroxide.
- Then, tilt your head so your ear is facing up.
- Squeeze the cotton ball and allow a few drops of the liquid to trickle into your ear.
- Keep your head tilted for about a minute to give the liquid time to reach and penetrate any waxy buildup.
- Then, tilt your head the opposite direction and let both the fluid and the softened wax flow out.
- AVOID using a cotton swab for earwax removal. In many cases, it actually pushes the wax further inside the ear and creates the potential for damage to the eardrum.
How is professional earwax removal different?
If you don’t feel comfortable with DIY earwax removal, or you have a more serious blockage, it’s best to leave it to a professional. Your audiologist or other hearing healthcare professional will often follow steps similar to the ones listed above. However, they may use a bulb syringe to flush out the ear. They may also use a small tool called a curette to reach into the ear canal and remove the built up wax. With specialized tools, a better view of the problem, and lots more experience, a professional can make earwax removal safe and efficient.
Earwax and hearing aids
Individuals who wear hearing aids may face another challenge. Earwax that would normally come out of the ear on its own gets stuck inside behind the hearing aid. This can build up, further impact hearing, and also clog up the hearing aid’s parts … all the more reason to get professional earwax removal and practice regular hearing aid care and maintenance.
If you know that you have an earwax blockage, or you have unexplained hearing loss, schedule an appointment with your hearing professional right away. The last thing you want is a punctured eardrum or permanent hearing damage from DIY earwax removal gone wrong. Here’s to healthy hearing and just the right amount of earwax!
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Source: Hear Well-Live Well Blog