What is earwax made of?
Earwax is a substance that’s still misunderstood. Even though our bodies produce some gross stuff, earwax is beneficial to your ears.
What is the material that earwax is made of?
Earwax is usually dark brown or yellow. It can also be white and flaky. It is primarily made up of sweat, dirt, oil and dead skin cells. The ingredients combine to form a waxy layer around the ear canal.
According to studies, not all earwax types are created equal. Depending on your ethnicity and ancestry, you can produce either wet or dried types. Caucasians and other ethnicities tend to produce wet earwax which can block the ear canal and cause ear infections.
Age can also affect the consistency of earwax. When you were young, your earwax was soft and light in colour. As we age, it can become darker, harder and more brittle.
Many factors can cause production to increase. Cerumen production can be affected by excessive stress, hearing aids, skin conditions, ear infections and a lot of hair on the ear canal.
What is the purpose of earwax?
It is unlikely that you have not heard about the negative effects of excessive earwax. A normal amount of earwax is beneficial to your ear health, unless you are suffering from a blocked or impacted earwax.
Earwax is a protective coating around your ear canal. It is sticky and acts as a barrier to prevent foreign objects like dust or grit from getting deeper into your ears. Earwax protects your eardrum.
The eardrum is also protected from bacteria. Cerumen protects the inner ear from microscopic invaders.
Insects are usually scared off by the smell of earwax. The scent may deter some bugs, but small ones can still get into the canal. Earwax can trap insects before they penetrate too deeply and cause damage to the eardrum.
Also, it helps to keep the skin of your ear canals clean and healthy. The wax layer keeps the skin moisturised, and protects it from becoming dry and itchy.
Earwax migrates naturally out of the ear canal, taking debris along with it. Imagine it as a conveyor belt that carries a constant load of earwax and dead skin cells, along with other dust or debris.
It is possible to have too much earwax. This is especially true if there are obstructions in your ears such as hearing aids or hair. Hearing problems, ear pain and infections can be caused by excess earwax blocking ear canals.
There are 5 reasons why ears get blocked
Ear blockages are caused by many factors both internal and external.
Cerumen can be produced in excess if your environment is dusty or dirty.
Weather can also cause excessive earwax. Cold weather can cause you to produce more earwax in order to protect yourself from the cold.
Earwax can also harden if it is exposed to cold temperatures for prolonged periods. Earwax that has hardened can cause pain and blockages within the ear canal.
2. Surfer’s ear
Exostosis, or surfer’s ears, is another way that your body can respond to cold weather. Exostosis, or surfer’s ear, is the body’s defensive response to cold air and moisture.
The exostosis, which is benign, can cause the ear canal to close and trap water and unwanted debris. Exostosis may cause pain, infection, or blockages.
3. Your Ear Canal Shape
Your ear canal’s shape can also be a factor in causing blockages. Blocked ears are often caused by narrow or misshaped ear canals. A number of factors can contribute to blocked ears, including ear infections, excessive hair growth or naturally restricted earcanals. Cerumen can also be less likely to block ear canals if they are narrow.
4. Excess hair
If you have excess hair in your ears, it can be difficult for the earwax or ear wax to migrate out.
5. Hearing aids and Earplugs
Hearing aids or earplugs can partially or completely block the ear canal of the wearer, which makes it difficult for earwax o migrate from your ears.
If you wear earplugs more often than once a week, it can slow down the natural process of removing earwax from your ear canal.
Hearing aids should be worn daily to get the best benefit. This can lead to earwax accumulation for many people. However, there are ways to minimize its effect.
Hearing aid tubing and domes should be replaced every 4 to 6 months to prevent earwax buildup and to avoid damage.
For more information, check out our guide to hearing aid cleaning and maintenance.
Earwax buildup can cause serious problems.
Untreated, excessive earwax can cause other more serious problems.
Additional factors such as foreign objects frequently found in the ear can worsen this problem. Cotton swabs and earbuds are all possible causes of impacted earwax.
Blockages can be caused by any of the above causes, including skin conditions, infections or other blockages.
A buildup of earwax in the ear canal can cause a dam that allows water to enter but prevents it from escaping.
The skin in your ear canal can become soft and absorbent if water is trapped. Lack of moisture can make your ear canals vulnerable to bacteria that may cause irritation or infection.
Hearing loss can be caused by many conditions that are associated with pain and discomfort.
When should you have earwax removed?
Each person’s earwax is unique. Some people have a lot of excess wax, while others don’t.
It can be difficult to decide whether you should remove your earwax regularly or only when it is necessary. The environment and circumstances can also affect earwax formation and the ease with which it leaves your ear. It is always best to consult a health professional who can help you determine how often earwax should be removed.
Earwax removal methods
There are two main methods of earwax removal microsuction and syringing.
The microsuction procedure involves inserting a thin, flexible tube through the ear canal with a microscope. It then uses light suction in order to remove earwax.
Water pressure is used to clean out the ear canal. This method is less effective than microsuction. The patient is at greater risk of eardrum rupture and discomfort.
You can also use less effective methods such as ear candling.
Even though earwax may cause problems, it is necessary to maintain healthy ears. It also protects against infection and damage.
Regular medical checkups are a great way to maintain your ear’s health and prevent any issues that may have lasting effects.
Our audiologist will recommend a hearing test if you have been experiencing hearing problems and removing the earwax has not improved things.
This article should have answered some of your questions about earwax, its purpose, and the importance it has to your ears’ health.