The skin on the outer part of your ear canal has special glands that produce ear wax, also known as cerumen. This natural wax is intended to protect your ear from damage and infections. Generally, a small amount of ear wax accumulates and then dries up and falls out of the ear canal, which aids in removing unwanted sand or dust particles.
Ear wax is also useful in coating the skin of the ear canal and acting as a temporary water repellent. Without ear wax, a person might experience dry, itchy ears or even infection.
The look of ear wax will vary from person to person. It ranges from dry and flaky to almost liquid, to firm and solid. Also, the color of ear wax differs depending upon its composition. Ear wax can contain sloughed off skin cells, glandular secretions and normal bacteria present on the surface of the canal, as well as water.
Although cerumen has practical purposes, sometimes removal of ear wax becomes necessary. Excessive ear wax may build up in the ear canal for several of reasons, including:
- the narrowing of the ear canal as a result of infections or diseases in the skin, bones or connective tissue;
- the production of a less fluid form of ear wax, which can be more common in older persons due to aging of the glands that produce ear wax; or
- overproduction of cerumen due to trauma or blockage within the ear canal.
Sometimes, too much earwax can impair the ability to hear. Excessive ear wax can cause other problems, too:
- a sense of fullness in the ears
- discharge from the ear canal
- ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
Ear Wax Management
Q-tips are not effective in removing excessive cerumen. Ear wax is not formed in the deep part of the ear canal near the eardrum. Rather, it is formed in the outer part of the ear canal close to the external opening, and therefore the use of Q-tips in counterproductive. In fact, using a Q-tip can actually push the ear wax further into your ear, against your eardrum. This can lead to even more blockage. Smoky Mountain Hearing Specialists can assist you in the safe removal of ear wax.
If you’re experiencing problems with your hearing, it could be due to excessive ear wax. Smoky Mountain Hearing Specialists offers a FREE consultation on a limited basis. To set up an appointment, please call our office one week in advance.