In general, most people think of earwax as being an annoying nuisance. Many people spend time “cleaning” their ears each day when, in fact, earwax should oftentimes be left alone. Cerumen, sometimes called earwax, is a sticky liquid secreted by glands in the skin of the ear canal. Cerumen is designed to trap dust, dirt particles and other foreign bodies, keeping them from reaching the eardrum. Typically, cerumen in the ear accumulates, dries, and then falls out of the ear on its own or is wiped away. Some medications, stress and exercise can cause your body to produce more cerumen; our ears may also start to produce more wax as we get older. At times, wax can become trapped in your ear and cannot easily come out. A cerumen impaction, a blockage of the ear canal by wax, can sometimes create temporary partial hearing loss, itching and discomfort. It is important to use safe removal techniques, sometimes including a visit to an audiologist or ENT specialist, to manage cerumen.

The use of Q-tips for wax removal is not recommended, as Q-tips may push the wax deeper into the ear, increasing buildup and affecting hearing. It is also not recommended to use other small items similar to Q-tips, such as toothpicks and hair pins. Using these techniques raises the concern of pushing the wax even further into the ear, preventing the wax from working its way out on its own. It also creates a risk of puncturing the eardrum. As the old saying goes, you should never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear.

Ear candling is another option that someone may explore for cerumen management. Multiple medical literature sources report ear candling is ineffective, dangerous, and may cause serious injury. Ear candles are hollow cones made of cloth and soaked in beeswax or paraffin. One side of the ear candle is placed in the ear canal, while the other end is ignited in flame. Some people believe that oxygen drawn through the candle will create a vacuum to pull residue out of the ear canal. As one can see, ear candling is not a safe method of attempted earwax removal. One should never hold a burning object close to the ear, nor should anyone place foreign objects into the ear canal. Multiple studies have proven ear candling to be unsafe and ineffective; some ear candling trials have resulted in burns, ear canal occlusions, ear infections and ear drum perforations.

If you feel you have a wax accumulation problem, speak to your audiologist, ENT specialist or primary care physician. All three of these professionals can provide earwax removal services. A hearing care professional can help determine if it may be necessary to schedule regular visits for cerumen removal and management. Your hearing care professional may also recommend the use of earwax softening/removal drops as a safe solution. Debrox is one such earwax removal drop that is popular among many professionals. Debrox drops offer a gentle, non-irritating microfoam cleansing action that works to soften and remove earwax.

Speak to your healthcare professionals today if you are experiencing issues with earwax buildup. It is critical to protect your ears by using safe and effective cerumen removal methods.

Clark, J., Beck, D., and Kutz, W. (2010, June). Ear candles and candling: Ineffective and dangerous. Retrieved from: http://audiology.org/news/ear-candles-and-candling-ineffective-and-dangerous.

Mason, P. (2015). Nothing smaller than your elbow, please. American Speech Language Hearing Association: Audiology Information Series. Retrieved from: http://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/AIS-Earwax.pdf#search=%22earwax%22.

Posted on Tue, August 30, 2016 by Kara Mouzin, AuD filed under Hearing Aid Hearing Loss Ear

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