Earwax is more than a jellybean flavor found in the infamous Harry Potter films. It really has a purpose in our ears. Clinically known as cerumen, it acts as a cleaning agent that lubricates and protects the ear from bacteria and debris.
The problem with some people is that they make too much of this “good stuff” which can lead to symptoms. Symptoms of too much ear wax can be pain, hearing loss, itching of the ear and tinnitus (ringing of the ears).
We see quite a few patients in the clinic with impacted ear wax. Many of these adults have used ear candles in the past to help draw out their ear wax. This works for many people. The main caution is for those that use this device and develop ear pain because their problem was NOT ear wax. So do not use ear candling unless you are sure you have wax in the ear.
We usually irrigate the ear gently with normal saline or water, letting water wash out excess wax. Some times I will use an ear “pick” to remove wax but please “don’t try this at home”. While we’re on the subject, do not put Q-tips or anything else in your ear to remove wax.
If you have a history of having to go to your doctor’s ofice to get wax removed, try irrigating and loosening the wax yourself before it starts to build up. You can use about a capful of olive oil, or any cooking oil in your kitchen, or a small amount of hydrogen peroxide (it will fizzle in your ear) in the effected ear. Keep your head tilted to allow the liquid to stay in thr ear for a few minutes. Then irrigate the ear with a bulb syringe (that you can find at the drug store) using warm tap water. It may take a day or two to flush most of the wax out.
So if you tend to have symptoms of too much ear wax every 6 months, then attempt to irrgate the ears every 3-4 months. See your clinician if you have problems removing it on your own.
Anyone with hearing aids needs to get checked more regularly for wax build-up. Waiting too long reduces hearing and can damage the hearing aid. So if you notice some ear wax naturally after showering or cleaning your ears, remove what you see, but know that it serves a purpose. But if too much of a good thing leaves you with ear symptoms, then there are some things you can do about it.
Earwax provides benefits to the body, helping to clean and lubricate the ear canal, but too much can cause problems. New guidelines strongly advise doctors to clean out excess earwax and check people with hearing aids every three months….
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