Why Do You Have Earwax?
Earwax. It’s sticky. It looks odd. It has a funky smell. And if there’s buildup, you may need a trip to an audiologist, otolaryngolgist or your primary care physician.
What is Earwax?
Earwax is the accumulation of various “debris” inside the ear: dead cells, hair, dust, cerumen, among others. Cerumen is the wax the glands in the ears naturally discharge. It shapes into a protective layer of the skin within the ear canal. Small amounts of earwax are produced on a regular basis. Earwax flakes fall out of the ear every now and then.
The amount of earwax produced varies for every person. Some individuals form plugs of wax, which result in a feeling of fullness and numbed hearing. A plug of wax is far from being a serious medical problem, but it can be a nuisance. A hard plug may also lead to tinnitus sometimes. In rare cases, it may even cause mild vertigo.
What Is Earwax Buildup?
Cerumen protects the ear from foreign particles and bacteria. It also shields the skin in the ear canal from irritation caused by water or moisture. Excess wax finds its way out of the ear’s opening, so it’ll naturally be washed away. However, when your ear glands produce more earwax than is needed, it may turn hard and eventually block the ear.
Also, when you clean your ears, you can unintentionally shove the earwax deeper, resulting in a blockage. The use of cotton swab (Q-tip) – or worse, bobby pins – is the main culprit here. You’re also more prone to have earwax buildup if you regularly use earphones, or earplugs, which can inadvertently stop wax from falling out of the ear canals.
Earwax buildup is one of the most common reasons for short-term hearing loss.
What are the Warning Signs of Earwax Buildup?
Earwax varies in color, from light yellow to dark brown. However, dark-colored wax doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s blockage. The signs and symptoms you need to pay attention to are the following:
- Partial or abrupt hearing loss, normally short-termed
- A sense of fullness or density inside the ear
How Do You Safely Remove Excess Earwax?
You must not try to dig out earwax buildup on your own. A wrong move or push can induce significant damage to your ear and result in infection or permanent hearing loss. Having said that, you will sometimes be capable of removing the excess earwax without help. But remember, only use cotton swabs on the outer part of your ears, and only if necessary.
To soften hardened earwax, you may use over-the-counter drops specially created for this purpose. The popular choices for the drops are mineral oil, baby oil, hydrogen peroxide and glycerin.
Lots of people don’t need medical help to remove earwax buildup. In fact, a once-a-year cleaning – usually done during your annual physical – is typically enough to keep the buildup under control. However, if you’re unable to remove the buildup, or if your ear becomes infected, you must immediately seek medical help. Other underlying health conditions may cause the symptoms of earwax buildup. It’s critical that your doctor rule those conditions out.