We don't often think that constantly cleaning our ears can do more harm than good. Our ears are much more than a feature that positions our unique faces- our ears play an important role in our health.
Ear wax & Why the Body Produces it
The inside of the ear is a very delicate part of the body. The skin around the ear canal including the eardrum need to be treated with caution when deciding to clean. Abort the idea of using a cotton-tip applicator because it will only do more harm and push the wax further. While you may think earwax is a useless (and sometimes a nuisance) fluid of the body, Earwax, also known as Cerumen, is quite a natural substance in small doses because it's purpose is to lubricate and act as a self cleaning, antibacterial agent. Most of the time our bodys generally produce normal amounts, however, having very little earwax can result in itchy and dry ears. The ears are a self cleaning machine and it is a slow and precise process of moving the earwax as well as skin cells from the ear drum to the ear opening. What is so fascinating about these tiny machines is that they are constantly in sync and moving along every time we chew or move our jaw.
You would be surprised that earwax is not formed in the inner ear canal but on the one -third layer outer canal. If someone seeks medical attention due to wax build up, is it usually because they have been improperly cleaning their ears with a cotton-tipped or even hard bobby-pin like objects. Again, you many feel that you are getting relief from cleaning your ears with pointed tip tools, but you are really just pushing the earwax deeper into the canal.
When Should You Clean Your Ears?
Although you may feel it is necessary to clean your ears when you get out of the shower, only under extreme circumstances should your ears be cleaned manually. Your body has an excellent way of keeping up with itself but every once in a while it needs a little assistance. When your ear is unable to maintenance itself and there is a need for medical assistance, it is because you may have cerumen impaction. Symptoms of this condition may include:
- Partial but gradual hearing loss
- Ear ache, fullness in ear, or a "plugged up" feeling
- Noises in the ear, ringing and even tinnitus
- An order, discharge and itching
How do I Clean My Ears?
Without inserting any object into the ear, you will need to wash the external area with a cloth. Other effective methods of cleaning the ears from too much build up is the use of oils such as mineral and baby oil, hydrogen peroxide and over the counter ear drops. These methods are known for softening the wax to allow it to flow out naturally. You may also feel that you would prefer the assistance of a medical professional and in that case they would use an irrigation or ear syringe method of abstraction. These irrigation kits are available for home use as well. With a syringe, use saline and water or wax drops beforehand to aid in quick and more effective results. Make sure that the liquid combination is at your body temperature to prevent dizziness. Please note that people with diabetes, ear tubing, perforated ear drum or weakened immune system should always consult their doctor before proceeding with this method.
If you have tried everything and feeling as though you have failed at it, manual removal is also effective but should be performed by an otolaryngologist who will use suctions, specific small instruments and a microscope. This method is usually preferred for people who have had a perforated ear drum, tubal ears, diabetes or weakened immune system or a narrow ear canal.
Some people may encourage the use of ear candles or ''ear candeling''. This is not a proper and safe method for cleaning the ears. Ear candles are 10" to 15" cone shaped cylinders that appear like candles, that are placed into the ears and you would ignite the hollow end in hopes it will soften and draw the wax out. According to the U.S Department of Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there have been many cases of accidents such as burns, perforation of the membrane that separates the middle ear and ear canal and a build up of the candle wax in the ear. Overall, there has been no proven study that this method of cleaning the ear has in fact been successful.
Why You Should Never Use Cotton Swabs
Wax blockage is a most common cause of hearing loss and cotton swabs are usually the culprits. Again, sticking anything hard and pointed into your ear to clean it is only pushing the wax further, causing more havoc later on. Our inner ears are shaped much like an hourglass which funnels down to the eardrum. Our outer ears have special glands that produce wax. The eawax has a main job of carrying dirt and dust out of the ears to prevent these particles form reaching the eardrum. The dust and dirt usually flake off and leave the ear.
When a Doctor is Necessary
If all of the above methods do not work for you or you are having more trouble, it is recommended to seek additional help from an ear, nose and throat specialist. Should you feel that there might be a puncture or hole in the ear drum, tell your doctor right away before trying any over-the-counter prescriptions or home methods of abstraction.Continuing on if a hole did exist could lead to infection.
Although there are no proven ways to prevent excessive earwax, take note that using sharper and harder objects will only make matters worse to increase wax build. The best way to avoid wax build up or if you have a tendency to accumulate larger amounts of wax or you wear hearing aids try ear wax removal drops and one of the ear wax removal washing kits available.