What is Ear Wax?
Ear wax, also known as cerumen, is produced within your ear canal, which is part of the outer ear. It is mainly composed of keratin from dead skin and hair cells, long chain fatty acids, cholesterol, alcohols, and squalene. Wax helps keep your ears clean by attaching to contaminants and moving them out of the ear canal. It also keeps the skin in your ear canal from drying out and has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
There are two types of cerumen and your genetics determine which type you have. The wet type is moist, sticky, and can be dark brown, honey-brown, or dark orange. This variety also has a higher lipid (fat) content. The dry type is flaky and gray or tan in color. Each type is more prevalent among different ethnic groups.
When Ear Wax Removal is Necessary
Your ears clean themselves and ear wax removal is often unnecessary but in some cases it may be required. Ear wax buildup can also clog your ear and lead to temporary hearing loss and/or tinnitus. In some circumstances, too much wax can contribute to infections.
Hearing aids are also a major reason why ear wax may need to be removed. These devices stimulate your ear to produce more wax. At the same time, they block your ear from cleaning itself out naturally. This means more wax can build up. This is not only uncomfortable for you but also damages the device over time. It is recommended that you get your ear canals checked every three to six months if you use hearing aids to ensure that there is no excess wax. Our audiologists can inspect your ear and hearing aids, safely remove wax, and ensure the device is still functioning properly.
Safe Ear Wax Removal
Although you may be tempted to try home remedies for ear wax removal, these can often make the problem worse and may damage your ears further. Using a cotton swab often pushes the ear wax further into your ear and possibly puncturing or scratching your eardrum. It is best not to put any object in your ear. Another dangerous method is ear candling, which generally does not work and can even lead to burns if not performed properly. As a result, you should not use either of these methods under any circumstances.
It is also important to note that symptoms of ear wax impaction may be caused by a different condition, such as an ear infection. In these cases, home remedies such as ear drops or flushing the ear may make the problem worse. A visit with our audiologists can help determine the cause of your concerns so we can provide the most effective treatment.
When to Call an Audiologist
Since removing wax yourself is potentially dangerous, it is always a safe option to call Alltones Audiology so we can inspect your ears and determine if removal is necessary. We use safe and comfortable methods to remove any blockages.
You should contact us right away if you notice any of the following:
- Itchy ear canal
- Drainage from the ear canal
- Plugging or fullness in ears
- Ear pain/ache
- Ringing in ears
- Decreased hearing
If you notice any of the below, you should seek emergency medical care, as these may indicate a more serious issue:
- Severe dizziness, loss of balance, or spinning sensation that may cause an inability to walk
- Plugging or fullness in ears
- High fever
- A sudden loss of your ability to hear
Professional Ear Wax Removal At Home
It can be inconvenient to go to an audiologist’s or doctor’s office to get the help you need with your ear health concerns. At Alltones Audiology, we want to make the process as simple as possible. We come to you so you get all the benefits of working with a hearing professional without having to leave your home.