Everyone has earwax. Some people may have more than others. It can even vary from dry earwax or wet earwax. This all depends on your body and your genetic makeup. Many people believe earwax is an indication for poor hygiene, but the truth may surprise you.
What is earwax?
Otherwise known as cerumen, earwax is a waxy substance made of dead skin cells, gland secretions, hair, and other bodily matter that your ear canal produces in order to help protect the ear from bacteria, water, and other unwanted germs and things that may enter your ear.
Why does the body produce earwax?
Contrary to popular belief, your body produces earwax to actually clean your ears. Earwax lubricates your ear canal and prevents your ears from being dry and itchy. It moves through your ear canal by means of jaw movements such as talking or eating. Earwax may eventually dry and fall out of your ear. Another misconception to mention, earwax is not produced in the entire ear canal all the way to your eardrum; it is only produced on the outer third part of your ear canal.
How can I safely clean my ears?
Your ears should be cleaned only if you have excess earwax causing your ears to feel plugged or itchy, hearing loss, ringing in your ears, or if your earwax has an odor.
Using a wet washcloth on the outside part of your ear is acceptable, but it is not a good idea to put cotton swabs, fingertips, ear candles, vacuum devices, or other small tools, such as hairpins, into your ear to try and dig out the wax. This could damage your ear canal or even your eardrum or push wax to your eardrum causing a blockage.
If I can’t use cotton swabs or at-home kits, how can I clean my ears without a visit to the Doctor?
In some cases, you can soften earwax by using a few drops of oil such as mineral oil or baby oil and allowing the oil to drain out of your ear. Another remedy is the Oto-Tip.
Stanford University’s BioDesign Program developed the Oto-Tip as a solution for at-home ear cleaning that is safe for your ears, actually works, eco-friendly, and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. The device has a few safety features such as a shield that prevents you from going into your ear too deep, and the tips will break away from the device if you are pushing too hard against your ear canal.
When should I visit my Doctor?
If you are experiencing hearing loss or the feeling that your ears are plugged, a physician may need to be consulted. If you feel uncomfortable or unconfident in cleaning your ears, visiting the doctor to clean your ears is the safest way to go. The last thing anyone would want is damage to your ear canal or eardrum.
We hope you learned something from this post about the purpose of earwax and how to safely clean your ears. If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments below and we will do our best to answer them for you! Stay healthy!