Ear wax, also called cerumen, is produced in the outer part of the ear canal serving to protect the ears in the sense that it has both lubricating and antibacterial properties. Most of the time, the old ear wax is moved through the ear canal by motions from chewing and other jaw movements and as the skin of the ear canal grows from the inside out. At that time, it reaches the outside of the ear and falls off.
It’s said that an individual has ear wax impaction when the wax has built up in the ear canal to such a point that there may be signs that something is not quite right. It is important to note that, for most people, ears might never need cleaning—they are designed to clean themselves. Ear wax buildup and blockage often happens when people use items like cotton swabs or bobby pins to try to clean their ears. This only pushes the ear wax farther into the ears and can also cause injury to the ear.
What are the symptoms of ear wax impaction?
- A feeling of fullness in the ear
- Pain in the ear
- Difficulty hearing, which may continue to worsen
- Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
- A feeling of itchiness in the ear
- Discharge from the ear
- Odor coming from the ear
Ear wax can be removed in several ways; some of these methods can be done at home.
- Cleaning the outside of the ear by wiping with a clean cloth. You may soak the cloth in warm water if you wish
- Putting cerumenolytic solutions (solutions to dissolve wax) into the ear canal—these solutions include mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, and saline solution.
- Irrigating or syringing the ear—this involves using a syringe to rinse out the ear canal with water or saline, generally after the wax has been softened or dissolved by a cerumenolytic.
- Removing the wax manually using special instruments—this should be done only by a health care provider who might use a cerumen spoon, forceps, or suction device. Ear buds are nowadays discouraged because the cotton on it can remain in the ear as a foreign body, or even push the wax further into the ear
Ear candles, which are advertised as a natural method to remove ear wax, are not only ineffective but can cause injury to the ear. Injuries include burns to the external ear and ear canal and perforation of the eardrum however experienced someone performing the procedure may be.