Ear Wax

ear wax blockage
Ear wax

Our ears produce a waxy oil referred to as cerumen, which is usually known as earwax. It plays a huge role in protecting your ear from foreign particles, dust, infection, trauma, water, and microorganisms, ensuring that you don’t suffer from ear skin canal irritation caused by water.

Where does ear wax comes from?

Ear wax is formed through the accumulation of wax from the sweat glands at the walls of the outer ear canal and the fatty secretions from sebaceous glands. Jaw movement from either talking or chewing helps propel all these secretions from the ear canal to your external ear, where they ultimately dry up and flake off. Your dead skin, as well as other debris, then combine with these secretions to create cerumen, or ear wax as it’s commonly known.

Can ear wax just fall out of my ear?

Our ears has a natural self-cleansing mechanism. Inside your ear canal, the skin cells found in the epithelial tissues sweep, pushes the earwax further down the internal section of the ear to the outside section, as we previously explained. The movement effectively gets rid of unwanted ear wax. Thus, most people do not need their ears to be cleaned.

What happens if I don’t clean my ears?

For most people, there shouldnt be a need for ear cleaning. However, for others, sebum glands in the ear produce excess wax which can eventually harden and accumulate, resulting in the blockage in the ears. If you allow it to accumulate, the buildup of wax can potentially reduce the conduction of sound result in a temporary loss of hearing.

ear wax removal
Why is there a build-up of ear wax?

For some people there may be a failure of this ear wax self-cleansing mechanism and this can result in a build-up of ear wax. Causes of this failure may include:

  • Abundant production of ear wax
  • Structural ear canal which results in either ear canal impedance or a narrowed ear canal. It is imperative to note that the risk of cerumen impaction is relatively higher among individuals with ear canal disease. Ear canal disease may occur as a result of an existing skin condition such as eczema and infection.
  • Persistent ear canal infection or physical damage, or a tortuously tightly structured ear canal can dramatically enhance the chance of earwax build-up.
  • WIth age, the earwax will become somewhat more hardened, a phenomenon which is usually triggered when the ear canal glands shrink. The aftereffect of this is that the migration ear wax process will be fairly less efficacious.
  • Foreign objects such as earplugs and hearing aids can also potentially impede your ear canal therefore preventing wax from clearing out.
  • Self-instrumentation with either cotton buds or Q-tip could help drive earwax further down the ear canal hence obstructing the ear passage.
How do you know if you have earwax build-up?

You might be experiencing the following:

  • Partial or sudden temporary or unending loss of hearing
  • Earache
  • Buzzing or ringing of the ear
  • An odor emanating from your ear
  • Vertigo and dizziness
    Itchiness over the ear
  • Persistent ear pain
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Dizziness
Do I need microsuction?

Generally, microsuction is recommended for:

  • Patients suffering from a ear infection are strongly advised to undergo microsuction. Ear irrigation is not an alternative to such patients.
  • Patients with earwax buildup that have caused symptoms.
  • Patients that have having anatomical variations within the ear canal.
  • Patients with hearing aids.
  • Children who are experiencing any of the above and are able and willing to follow and understand simple instructions.
Can you hear better after ear wax removal?

Earwax blockage can affect 1 in 10 children, 1 in 13 adults and a third of the elderly.

The good news is that if done correctly, ear wax removal shows to enhance hearing and is beneficial in the restoration of hearing in elderly, enabling them to socialize better and prevent deterioration of cognitive function.

This applies to everyone else as well!

How does a doctor remove ear wax?
  • Ear irrigation: This involves harnessing the pressure of water to gently flush out and dislodge the accumulated earwax. However, there is a risk of infection if the irrigated water is not entirely removed from the ears. Other risks includes perforation or injury to your eardrum, pain, discomfort in the ear, dizziness, hearing loss and tinnitus. This is generally not recommended for those with ear infections or perforated eardrums.
  • Chemical ear drops: This is a safe and painless method which softens the earwax, breaks it down as well as lubricate the ear canal, making it easier to get rid of cerumen. You should avoid using this for more than 3-5 days as this can result in the irritation of the ear canal lining, which can lead to ear pain, discomfort, temporary loss of hearing, and possibly infection.
  • Aural Toilet using Microsuction: This treatment technique involves a visualization of your ear canal through a microscope and the use of a mini-vacuum to remove the earwax safely. Other instruments used include hooks, forceps, curettes, and suction. This is ideal for individuals with perforation on their eardrum or those with an ear infection. However, the disadvantage of this method is that it demands an expertise of a highly trained clinician who also has adequate equipment.
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