Earwax probably isn’t something you’ve given much thought to, but it’s actually a very important part of your ear health. Find everything you never thought you needed to know about earwax here.
What is earwax?
Essentially, earwax is an efficient self-cleaning service for your ears, and helps to protect the sensitive ear canal from things like bacteria and debris that can cause infections.
Produced naturally by glands in the ear canal, you’ll recognise earwax as any colour from yellow, to bright orange, to dark brown. Your body will normally produce enough earwax to maintain health on its own, but sometimes this wax can become hard and impacted, which can lead to problems like hearing loss, or discomfort.
Why do we have earwax?
Earwax is a good thing to have in your ears, that’s why your body naturally produces it
Its sticky texture prevents bacteria and germs from moving further into the ear, where they can cause infections.
In-built cleaning service
Eventually, the earwax containing any trapped dirt or bacteria will simply fall out without you noticing, cleaning as it goes.
Earwax lubricates the skin and helps to maintain the ear’s natural pH balance, which prevents irritation and dryness, as well as preserving overall ear health. Its slightly acidic pH is hostile to bacteria, stopping growth and possible infection.
Keeps out unwelcome guests
Earwax is also a natural insect repellent – so if you’ve ever felt a tickling sensation in your ear, you don’t need to worry about anything creepy nor crawly
Problems caused by earwax
An earwax build-up can cause:
- Itchy ears
- Discomfort, or earache
- Hearing loss
And for hearing aid wearers it can:
- Cause damage or a need for frequent cleaning of the hearing aid
- Cause discomfort or poor fitting of a hearing aid and its day-to-day wearing
- Cause the hearing aids to make a whistling noise
Earwax and hearing tests
It’s difficult to perform a full hearing test when there is a build-up of wax in the ears.
It can produce inaccurate test results and obstructs the view to the eardrum in order for your hearing care professional to accurately assess your hearing.
It also creates issues when you need to have an ear mould impression taken or have hearing aids fitted.
How should you clean your ears safely?
Your ears are designed to be self-cleaning and will normally produce enough earwax to prevent problems occurring, and make its way out of the ear, completely on its own.
Many people use cotton buds in an effort to ‘clean’ their ears from excess wax, but you’re actually more likely to cause earwax blockage and further issues. Rather than removing the earwax, it instead pushes it further into the ear, which leads to a build-up, or impacted wax.
If not removed, impacted earwax can lead to infection, which will need to be treated by a doctor.