Information

WHAT IS EAR WAX?

Ear wax is completely natural and good for our ears. It has an important job protecting us against pathogens (micro-organisms which can cause infection). It also facilitates the breakdown of dead skin by adding lubrication. Ear wax gives us a waterproof entrance to the ear canal and its stickiness helps to catch dust and dirt before it reaches the delicate eardrum.

WHAT SHOULD WE AVOID DOING TO OUR EARS?

Cleaning them too much! During my years of clearing excess wax, I have met people who are obsessive about cleaning their ears. I have seen cotton buds pushed through eardrums and wax pushed down into the ear canal so deep that it made people very sick and dizzy (the inner ear contains the organ of balance too). I have also seen squeaky clean ears which regularly become infected because there is no protective wax left in the ear canal.

Our ear canals are able to self-clean. Unlike the skin on the rest of our bodies, the skin in our ear canals sheds in a very special way. The new skin grows from the eardrum (the deepest part of the ear) and as it ages it gradually moves towards the entrance of the ear canal where it naturally breaks down and sheds off.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF EXCESS WAX?

The most obvious symptom is not hearing properly. It may be that certain sounds, like chewing your food, have become extra loud yet you can’t hear the TV. This is called ‘occlusion’ and it happens because the ear actually allows sound out, as well as in. Other symptoms often include: tinnitus (ringing sound in the ears), dizziness, irritation or pain. If you wear a hearing aid and it is whistling, then it is likely you have a build-up of wax. The sound is coming out of the hearing aid, hitting the wax and bouncing straight back out of the ear and into the microphone, setting up a feedback loop.

SO, IF EARS ARE SELF CLEANING, WHY DO SOME PEOPLE NEED WAX REMOVAL?

Occasionally excessive ear wax can become an issue. Generally ear wax build-up can be caused by two things. Firstly, narrowing or convoluted ear canals can result in the ear wax getting stuck. Secondly, excessive ear wax can be caused by the individual wearing something in their ears such as, hearings aids, ear plugs or earphones. Alternatively, some people have ear conditions which alter the natural shedding process or they may produce excess wax.

Another main cause of ear wax blockage is the cotton bud. The very thing that people use to clean their ears can actually make things worse, by pushing the wax further down the ear canal.

IMPORTANT
Please read this information:

If you lose hearing suddenly it is classed as a medical emergency. I have seen cases where someone has lost hearing suddenly and thought it was just a wax build-up. It may not be wax, it may be Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss which needs prompt treatment. The most important message is to get someone to check your ears as soon as possible to ensure that you can receive the appropriate treatment. If you would like to read more about Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss click here.