The Lowdown on Ear Wax (AKA Cerumen)
Find Out Some Friends and Foes to That Stuff in Your Ears.
Cerumen (also known as ear wax) is a thick-like substance that occurs in the ear canal. Secreted from glands in the outer ear, it becomes thick when mixed with skin cells and hair found in the ear. Its colors can vary, ranging from a red, yellowish or brown to a white or gray color. While we may find it “annoying” or “gross”, ear wax serves two primary functions: it not only protects the ear from water, bacteria, and foreign materials, but also lubricates the ear canal and keeps it from getting too dry.
Too much ear wax isn’t necessarily a good thing. Excessive ear wax left untreated can create additional symptoms such as ear irritation, hearing loss, and tinnitus (ringing or noises in the ears). In some instances, underlying medical conditions affecting the eardrum can go undiagnosed due to earwax blocking view.
The Dos and Don’ts of Cerumen Management
DO: Leave it be. Ear wax naturally migrates out of the ear canal and disruption of this process can lead to overaccumulation and impaction.
DO: See your hearing specialist for proper ear wax removal if your ears feel plugged and you are prone to excessive ear wax. Your provider will be able to discuss the best option for removal for your individual needs.
DO: Use a solution or wash recommended by your specialist for cerumen maintenance in between appointments.
DON’T: Use a Q-tip
DEFINITELY DON’T: Use a bobby pin (As the saying goes “nothing smaller than your elbow in your ear!”)
DON’T: Be embarrassed about having ear wax. It’s there for a reason!