Audiologists at Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center can take a look at your ears, see if there’s any blockage or earwax impaction, and perform professional earwax removal that will give you the relief you need in no time.
Earwax is a self-cleaning agent that your body naturally produces. It collects dirt, bacteria, and other debris, and for the most part, that earwax works its way out of your body naturally, through chewing or other jaw motions. Most people don’t ever need to clean their ears, but sometimes wax can build up and affect your hearing. The most important thing to note here is that cleaning with a cotton swab is not recommended, as that can push the wax further into the ear canal.
Earwax is a body secretion that’s actually normal and useful to maintaining ear health. Earwax works as a natural ear cleanser, moving dirt from the inner ear canal outward, gathering dead skin cells and other debris along the way. In fact, according to Harvard Health Publishing, earwax has antibacterial and antifungal properties. While most people think that earwax is icky and needs to be taken out of the ears regularly, doing so may do more harm than good. The ears are not designed to have zero earwax. In fact, if the ears don’t have enough earwax, they are most likely to feel itchy and bring discomfort. However, excessive production of earwax is a whole other story.
Earwax is medically known as cerumen. It starts as a mixture of sweat glands and fatty secretions from the sebaceous glands. Jaw movement from talking, yawning or chewing helps propel the secretions through the canal to the ear opening, where they are supposed to dry up and flake off.
Hearing aids can block the normal migration of earwax out of the ear, which is totally understandable since they are positioned inside the ear (partially or completely). When this happens, the glands in the ear canal may be stimulated to produce more secretions – also known as earwax. Around 60-70% of the hearing aids sent for repair are damaged by earwax. The sticky secretion tends to seep into hearing aid vents and receivers, and the acidity degrades the components. Ideally, earwax buildup is part of a regular checkup for anyone wearing hearing aids.
For people with mild earwax problems, yes. Water-based earwax removal drops contain ingredients such as sodium bicarbonate, hydrogen peroxide, or acetic acid. Oil-based ear drops are designed to soften and lubricate the earwax. Sometimes, OTC ear drops may work on their own. However, there are also cases when a few squirts of water using a bulb syringe is needed to penetrate the earwax. Keep in mind that people with a damaged or perforated eardrum should stay away from using bulb syringes in their ears. If water gets into the middle ear, they are going to be at high risk for infection and complications. Again, seeing a professional for earwax removal is still the best course of action.
Audiologists tackle earwax blockage with expertise and using the right tools, such as spoon-like curretes that can fit the narrows space of the ear canal. Plus, audiologists have a better view of your ears, there’s no arguing about that.
As we all know, too much of something is not good. That’s the same with earwax; too much earwax can clog up the ear canal which can lead to infections, ear aches, and other related problems. If the earwax gets clogged in a certain way, it can cause a cough by stimulating the vagus nerve branch that is connected to the outer ear. Excess earwax can also lead to some level of hearing loss.
Earwax that sits in the ear canal for a long time can get hard and dry, which is more likely to cause a blockage. As people age, the glandular secretions change in consistency, making the mechanism of traveling through the ear canal more tricky.
Ear candling should definitely be avoided. Why? Simply put, there is no evidence that suggests ear candling is effective. The idea behind ear candling is that it creates a negative pressure vacuum that forces wax out of the ear canal. However, researchers who measured ear pressure during an ear candling session found that no negative air pressure is created. In fact, the negative pressure needed to pull wax from the canal would have to be so powerful that it would rupture the eardrum in the process.
Ideally, earwax removal should be done by a professional, especially if there’s already a blockage.
However, some people want to try a DIY approach. The thing that most people do – but shouldn’t- is attempt to remove the earwax with a cotton swab. Doing so tends to push the earwax back into the ear, which can cause more trouble. If you really want to attempt a “first aid” earwax removal while waiting for your doctor’s appointment, you can try soaking a cotton ball with plain water, hydrogen peroxide or saline solution. Put in a few drops into the affected ear with your head tilted at an angle where your ear is pointing up. Stay in that position for a minute to allow gravity to absorb the fluid through the ear wax. After that, tilt your head the other way and let the fluid drain out.
You can also use a bulb syringe to flush out the earwax but if you’re not confident that you can do it correctly, you might as well let an audiologist or hearing healthcare professional complete the earwax removal for you.
Keep in mind that earwax forms in the outer third of the ear canal, far from the eardrum. In cases where the earwax buildup is located near the eardrum, it may be the result of several failed removal attempts. In short, inefficient or incorrect earwax removal will only push the wax deeper in the ears. The deeper it gets, the harder it is to get it out.