Health Care and Ear Wax

Ever have
an annoying problem not being able to hear, and it was due to a build up of
what’s known as ear wax? One of the most common causes related to loss of
hearing is when your ear canal produces a 
waxy substance that, unless treated and cleaned regularly, can be a
detriment to your ability to clearly hear sounds.
According
to Healthline,
your ear canal produces a waxy oil called cerumen,
which is more commonly known as earwax. This wax protects the ear from dust,
foreign particles, and microorganisms. It also protects ear canal skin from
irritation due to water. In normal circumstances, excess wax finds its way out
of the canal and into the ear opening naturally and then is washed away.
When your glands make more earwax than is necessary, it may
get hard and block the ear. When you clean your ears, you can accidentally push
the wax deeper, causing a blockage. Wax buildup is a common reason for
temporary hearing loss. More information can be found at this website:
http://www.healthline.com/health/earwax-buildup
.
Cerumen,
as noted by the American Hearing Research Foundation, protects the skin of the
human ear canal, assists in cleaning and lubrication, and also provides some
protection against bacteria, fungi, insects and water. Earwax consists of shed
skin cells, hair, and the secretions of the ceruminous and sebaceous glands of
the outside ear canal. Major components of earwax are long chain fatty acids,
both saturated and unsaturated, alcohols, squalene, and cholesterol. Excess or
compacted cerumen can press against the eardrum or block the outside ear canal
or hearing aids, potentially causing hearing loss.
According
to the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO), cerumen or earwax is healthy
in normal amounts and serves as a self-cleaning agent with protective,
lubricating, and antibacterial properties. The absence of earwax may result in
dry, itchy ears. Self-cleaning means there is a slow and orderly movement of
earwax and dead skin cells from the eardrum to the ear opening. Old earwax is
constantly being transported, assisted by chewing and jaw motion, from the ear
canal to the ear opening where, most of the time, it dries, flakes, and falls
out.
Earwax is not formed in the deep part of the ear canal near
the eardrum. It is only formed in the outer one-third of the ear canal. So,
when a patient has wax blockage against the eardrum, it is often because he has
been probing the ear with such things as cotton-tipped applicators, bobby pins,
or twisted napkin corners. These objects only push the wax in deeper. More info
about this topic is located at this site:
http://www.entnet.org/content/earwax-and-care
.
You’re
also more likely to have wax buildup if you frequently use earphones, which can
inadvertently prevent earwax from coming out of the ear canals and cause
blockages, according to Healthline. The appearance of earwax varies from light
yellow to dark brown. Darker colors do not necessarily indicate that there is a
blockage. Signs of earwax buildup include:
·        
Sudden
or partial hearing loss, which is usually temporary
·        
Tinnitus,
which is a ringing or buzzing in the ear
·        
A
feeling of fullness in the ear
·        
Ear
ache
Unremoved
earwax buildup can lead to infection. Contact your doctor if you experience the
symptoms of infection, such as:
·        
Severe
pain in your ear
·        
Pain
in your ear that does not subside
·        
Drainage
from your ear
·        
Coughing
·        
Persistent
hearing loss
·        
An
odor coming from your ear
·        
Dizziness
It’s
important to note that hearing loss, dizziness, and earaches also have many
other causes. You should see your doctor if any of these symptoms are frequent.
A full medical evaluation can help determine whether the problem is due to
excess earwax or another health issue.
To clean
the ears, wash the external ear with a cloth, but do not insert anything into
the ear canal, according to the AAO. Most cases of ear wax blockage respond to
home treatments used to soften wax. Patients can try placing a few drops of
mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or commercial drops in the ear. Detergent
drops such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide (available in most
pharmacies) may also aid in the removal of wax.
Irrigation
or ear syringing is commonly used for cleaning and can be performed by a
physician or at home using a commercially available irrigation kit. Common
solutions used for syringing include water and saline, which should be warmed
to body temperature to prevent dizziness. Ear syringing is most effective when
water, saline, or wax dissolving drops are put in the ear canal 15 to 30
minutes before treatment. Caution is advised to avoid having your ears
irrigated if you have diabetes, a hole in the eardrum (perforation), tube in
the eardrum, skin problems such as eczema in the ear canal or a weakened immune
system.
Manual
removal of earwax is also effective. This is most often performed by an
otolaryngologist using suction or special miniature instruments, and a
microscope to magnify the ear canal. Manual removal is preferred if your ear
canal is narrow, the eardrum has a perforation or tube, other methods have
failed, or if you have skin problems affecting the ear canal, diabetes or a
weakened immune system.
Some
people are troubled by repeated build-up of earwax and require ear irrigation
every so often.
More
information about ear syringing is available at this site:
http://patient.info/health/earwax-leaflet .

According
to the Cleveland Clinic,
if left untreated, excessive ear wax may cause symptoms
of ear wax impaction to become worse. These symptoms might include hearing loss,
ear irritation, etc. A build-up of ear wax might also make it difficult to see
into the ear, which may result in potential problems going undiagnosed.  Do not stick anything into your ears to clean
them. Use cotton swabs only on the outside of the ear. 

Ear
candling has gained a lot of attention as a home remedy for earwax removal (and
overall well-being), but doctors strongly advise against it because hasn’t
been proved to be safe or effective. In ear candling, one end of a
cone-type device is inserted into the ear canal and the other end is set on
fire, with the idea that the fire and the cone form a vacuum and extract the
wax. 

But trying this at home means a high risk of burning the ear canal and
possibly perforating or punching a hole in the eardrum, which can permanently
damage hearing, according to KidsHealth. Find more info at this site: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/earwax.html
.
Ear wax
buildup can be a problem, so see your doctor if you are having hearing problems
or notice any of the symptoms noted in this article. Be careful with home
remedies, and always get medical attention if your ears have any problems.

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