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How Earwax Can Cause Discomfort and More

 

 

Some people seem to be more prone to a build up of unwanted wax in their ears, including about ten percent of young children, twenty percent of adults and more than thirty percent of elderly and developmentally disabled people.  The wax can collect to the point where it can completely block the ear canal.

I am one of these...

Every few years, it suddenly becomes difficult to hear and I have to do something about it.  I will never forget many years ago when I was in labor with my daughter.  Suddenly my ears became completely blocked and I spent the next few hours on "gas and air" and completely oblivious to any instructions from the midwife!  In spite of this, my daughter arrived safe and sound and I made sure that within a day or two, my ears were sorted.

Back then there was not a lot of choice in what method to use but now things have changed.

If your ear is blocked – and the problem doesn’t go away – it may be time to see a pharmacist or your doctor. You will know if your ear is blocked if you have an earache, difficulty hearing, pain, you feel dizzy or there is a high-pitched tone coming from inside of your ear.  If your ear is badly blocked and you can't hear anything, you can get an infection if it isn't cleared.  

What is earwax? 

Earwax (medical name cerumen) is a natural, waxy substance that is produced by sebaceous glands in our ear canals. Its purpose is to help protect the ear canal and eardrum against water, dust, dirt, debris, fungi, bacteria and even insects!

As earwax gets old and starts to dry, it gradually moves to the outside of the ear by the regular motion of the jaw muscles - where it falls out naturally, taking any trapped dirt and dead skin cells with it.

Whilst this process is going on, the wax glands in the ear canal are continually producing new wax to replace the old.  The problem occurs when too much wax is being produced and starts to build-up in the ears.

How to remove earwax - safely

A word of warning!  If you have an ear infection, a perforated ear drum, earache, or even if you 'think' you have a problem with your ears, then you should never use home remedies to get rid of your wax. You should always consult with your doctor beforehand for their advice.

I am sure you have often read and been told never to try and remove earwax with a Q-tip, tempting though it may be.  What happens is that you are likely to push any earwax further into the ear canal, leading to blockages and further problems.

  • Use natural oils to break down the wax by putting in two to three drops of olive oil twice a day.  After a few weeks, lumps of earwax will often fall out of the ears.
  • Another suggestion is to use chemical ear drops, available from your pharmacy. The earwax should fall out on its own or dissolve after about a week.
  • One of the most commonly used techniques by your doctor is to syringe, or irrigate, the ears. This floods the ear with a pressurized jet of lukewarm water to dislodge the wax out into a bowl held under the ear.  With irrigation, you will usually have been instructed to add oil drops from the pharmacy for several days prior to their appointment, to help soften the wax.
  • Another method is to suck the wax out using a micro-suction device along with a microscope to safely suck the wax out of the ear.

     What can cause earwax build up?

    • You just have more wax in your ears – some people do naturally.
    • You have hairy or narrow canals (the tubes that link the eardrum and outer ear).
    • As you age, wax gets harder and more difficult to fall out.
    • It could be because of hearing aids, earplugs and other things you put in your ear – these can push the wax further in.