Everything You Need to Know!
Ear wax is very important for ears, in that it lubricates, protects, and cleans in order to protect the ear canal from foreign bodies, and ensures that the ear canal skin doesn’t dry out. Ear wax is vital in self-cleaning,
So What Is It Made Up Of?
Ear wax itself is actually made up of dead skin cells, dust (environmental particles), and oily secretions from the glands in the ear canal. It’s produced in the outer third of the ear canal and naturally works its way out. When the wax makes this journey, it carries with it any dead skin cells and dirt. When wax reaches the ear opening, it dries up and falls out. Wax is kept moving throughout the canal by chewing and other jaw movements.
In certain situations, a build-up of ear wax can start to cause problems. This normally occurs either because the person has narrow ear canals, bony growths, or if you regularly insert foreign bodies (hearing aids, swim plugs, noise protection etc) into the ear. Certain people also produce more wax than others, both hard and dry.
It’s also worth noting that elderly people suffer more from wax build up due to their wax becoming naturally drier with age.
It’s usually quite easy to tell if you have a build-up of ear wax; your hearing will feel muffled! Either in one ear or both, you’ll feel as if sounds aren’t quite getting in, and that’s because they aren’t! Other symptoms can include itching, earache, and sometimes even tinnitus, ear infections, or vertigo.
Cotton Buds – Do Not Try This at Home
The use of cotton buds or other home-based apparatus to attempt to remove earwax is 100% NOT RECOMMENDED!
Inserting something into your ear will only result in the the wax being pushed deeper into the canal, making the blockage worse. It can cause bruising to the eardrum, or even perforation. What’s more, it can also result in its removal (by a qualified audiologist) being a far more difficult procedure.
Hopi Candles (aka Ear Candling)
The use of Hopi candles is one of the most dangerous practices in the field of audiology. It is 100% NOT RECOMMENDED!
Hopi candles should be avoided at all costs! They do not work, and are the closest thing to charlatanism in current day audiology. They often make your hearing worse. The wax that they ‘remove’ is actually just molten wax from the candle. Meanwhile, your ear may be filling with candle wax and ash, blocking your ear further and putting you at risk of an ear infection, burns and perforation.
Contrary to what ‘celebrity’ Dr Dawn Harper may believe, ear candles are not safe.
Please watch this video for information https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvTU2HFquCQ
What Should You Do?
If you have particularly hard wax which needs softening: we recommend the use of Medical Olive Oil. Olive oil softens the wax to either assist the ear’s self-cleaning or aids in the professional removal using approved techniques.
Wax Removal Techniques
There are two distinct ways in which a healthcare professional will unblock your ears:
Firstly, the more common method is known as Irrigation, although a lot of you may know it as ‘ear syringing’. The reason for the different terminology is that ‘syringing’ was a very primitive, unsophisticated (albeit effective) manual technique, with very little control over pressure and directionality of the water. This could cause discomfort if aimed at the eardrum. Irrigation uses controlled bursts of warm water, aimed at 45 degrees (away from the eardrum) to dislodge and rinse the wax. It is far safer, and painless.
Alternatively, there is another technique called Microsuction. Microsuction is very effective, and involves a very small vacuum probe being inserted into the ear to suck out any wax, piece by piece. Microsuction is also entirely safe and painless, although it is a highly skilled procedure which isn’t widely available outside hospitals. It is typically used on people who have either tried irrigation and found it ineffective, or for those whom irrigation is not an option due to a history of ear infections, or the presence of a perforation.
Click here for more information, costs of ear wax removal procedures we offer, and to book your appointment online.