Tue | Mar 28, 2017

The Tranquil Way | Should you have your earwax removed?

Published:Tuesday | March 14, 2017 | 3:00 AM

Do you remember being told as a child that nothing bigger than your elbow should be inserted into your ear canal? Of course, it was with the understanding that this was impossible and was really a way to discourage the practice of ear cleaning. So does this mean that the wax should be left alone?

There are two different types of wax that may be produced by the ear: the brown wet type; and the grey, dry flaky type. Those of African and European descent are more likely to have the wet type while those of Asian descent are more likely to have the dry type. Wax is produced by the outer third of the ear and is composed of shed skin and gland secretions.

 

DIFFERENT FUNCTIONS

 

The wax in the ear has a number of different functions. It cleans the ear canal as the flow of cells from the eardrum and outwards bringing any debris along with it and assisted by the movement of the jaw, which help to loosen it up. It also seems to slow the growth of certain bacteria and fungi. In addition, it serves as a form of lubrication for the skin cells of the ear canal and prevents it from drying out.

Some persons seem to have a problem with the outward flow, though, and this causes the wax to accumulate in the ear, bringing about blockage of the ear canal. Persons with allergic conditions may have an increased risk of this happening. This can even result in reduced hearing. These allergic conditions may cause itching of the ears. Some persons try scratching ears with various implements, but this can result in damaging the ear drum. Other persons may attempt to remove the wax with ear tips, but this can push the wax further down into the ear canal, causing impaction.

Cleaning of the ear may be done safely by using wax softeners, which can be dropped into the ear safely. They can be obtained over the counter at the pharmacy. They don't always result in removal, but they may facilitate removal by softening it up. Some persons use olive oil or peroxide solutions. Ear syringing is probably the most popular method of removal. There are mechanical methods of removal as well.

Care must be taken during removal as damage and irritation can be inflicted on the eardrum and canal. Syringing can also cause dizziness.