What is the purpose of earwax: 10 things you never knew about ear wax
10 things you never knew about ear wax
Ear drops can help loosen ear wax, meaning you can remove it easily.
When was the last time you gave more than a passing thought to that waxy, yellow goo that sporadically comes out of your ears? Probably a while ago?
Earwax is one of those things that most of us pay little attention to – until we experience an ear infection or blockage – so here are some interesting ear wax facts you may never have taken the time to learn.
Earwax has another name
Earwax also goes by its correct medical term, cerumen.
Earwax is not actually wax
It gets its name from its waxy, sticky texture – but earwax is not a wax. The exact recipe for earwax requires a good dose of sebum (a body secretion made up mostly of fat), skin cells, sweat and dirt.
Earwax is pretty important stuff…
Earwax is produced by the ear to clean and protect itself. It’s secreted by glands in the skin that line the outer half of your ear canals. The wax and tiny hairs in these passages trap dust and other foreign particles that could damage deeper structures, such as your eardrum.
….but you can have too much of a good thing
While people with too little earwax are likely to experience itchy ears that are more prone to infection, an ear canal blocked up with earwax can cause earaches, mild deafness, a sensation of fullness in the ear, tinnitus, infections and other problems.
Your earwax says a lot about you
There are actually two kinds of earwax – wet and dry. Wet earwax is more common among Caucasian and African people and is typically dark yellow and sticky. For those with East Asian or Native American ancestry, ear wax is typically light in colour, dry and flaky.
Your earwax can change colour
The consistency of your earwax will vary depending on your environment and diet. You may get darker wax if you work in a dirty environment. Wax that’s been in your ear longer will generally be darker because it’s trapped more dirt.
You should never stick ANYTHING into your ears
It’s not recommended to stick anything in your ears to remove ear wax. Not only is it dangerous to stick cotton buds, paper clips, bobby pins or anything else sharp into your ears – but it can also make problems with wax build up a lot worse as you push the wax further into your ear canals.
Earwax is a common cause of hearing problems
Earwax can create problems for our hearing when it starts to build up in our ears, a process known as impaction.
The symptoms of impacted earwax are hearing loss, earache, sense of ear fullness, itchiness in the ear, dizziness, ringing in the ear and a cough.
How to properly clean your inner ears
You don’t actually need to clean your inner ears. Ears are self-cleaning and earwax should work its way out of your ear naturally in time where you can clean it with a damp cloth.
If you do get a build up of ear wax that’s causing you problems, visit your GP to have it removed. You can also get drops to loosen ear wax at the pharmacy. Generally, you’ll apply these drops twice a week to loosen ear wax, before removing it from your outer ear with a cloth – but follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Stay away from ear candles
Ear candles are marketed as a solution to removing wax from ear canals, but they often do more harm than good. Unsurprisingly, for something that involves lighting a flame near your head, they’ve been known to cause burns to the face, outer ear, eardrum and inner ear. . They can also make build-ups of ear wax worse and are not recommended.
3 reasons to leave earwax alone – Harvard Health Blog
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling
Can you think of something you do that’s nearly irresistible, widely popular, but a bad idea that’s based on a health myth? That’s right, I’m talking about inserting cotton-tipped swabs into your ears.
According to guidelines from the American Academy of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, experts strongly discourage twirling cotton-tipped swabs in the ears. Here’s why.
- It’s unnecessary
The ear is self-cleaning. No routine maintenance is required. If you’re inserting swabs into your ears to remove earwax or prevent its buildup, think again. Earwax is produced within the ear canal and naturally migrates from deeper inside to outside. There are exceptions, of course. Some people make more than the average amount of earwax, and for others (especially older adults) it becomes harder and drier than usual. Even in these situations, inserting a swab inside the ear is not the answer. More on this in a moment.
- It may be harmful
Inserting a cotton tipped swab (or anything else) into the ear can damage the ear canal or eardrum, or push earwax farther into the canal, making it harder to remove. This may cause a feeling of pressure in the ear and diminished hearing. Even worse, clumps of earwax pushed down near the eardrum can lead to painful ear infections.
- Earwax is not a sign of poor hygiene
Here’s where there seems to be some misunderstanding. Earwax — the medical term is “cerumen” — is there for good reasons. Among other things, cerumen:
- is a natural moisturizer, preventing the skin inside the ear from becoming too dry
- traps dirt and dust before they can reach deep into the canal
- absorbs dead skin cells and debris
- prevents bacteria and other infectious organisms from reaching the inner ear.
Some people make more earwax, while others make less. The makeup of earwax varies depending on ethnicity, age, environment, and even diet. While there seems to be a certain “ick” factor associated with earwax, it’s not a reflection of uncleanliness; in fact, it’s a sign of normal, healthy ears.
What to do about “cerumenosis”
Buildup of earwax can cause symptoms. When it does, doctors call it “cerumenosis” and recommend over-the-counter ear drops that can soften earwax and allow it to exit the ear more easily (with gentle irrigation, such as during a shower). Or, a healthcare provider can look inside your ear and use instruments specifically designed to remove earwax.
There’s a reason the makers of cotton-tipped swabs put this warning on their packaging: “Do not insert swab into ear canal. Entering the ear canal could cause injury.” But, it still goes on. Perhaps it’s just too tempting or satisfying. Perhaps no one reads the labels of the products they use. Or maybe the myths about earwax are too ingrained to be easily dispelled by facts. Whatever the reasons, now you know to stop putting cotton-tipped swabs into your ears. And that also goes for unfolded paper clips, pen caps, or whatever else you’ve been using!
Why Do We Have Ear Wax?
The ear wax that is naturally produced by your body helps to clean, protect, and lubricate your ears. But ear wax sometimes builds up excessively, and if it does, you may want to turn to methods of ear wax removal.
Ear wax, also called cerumen, is a sticky, shiny substance produced by the wax glands located in the outer part of your ear canal (the canal that separates the fleshy outer ear from the inner ear). Ear wax is 20 to 50 percent fat, and it coats the ear canal to moisturize it, fight off infection, and help keep dust, dirt, and other debris from getting deep inside your ear. Most people make enough ear wax, but if you have too little ear wax, your ears can become dry, itchy, and prone to infection.
Once ear wax has served its purpose, it eventually migrates from your ear canal to the opening of your ear, where it normally dries up and falls out of your ear. Although the reason is unknown, some people produce more ear wax than others. In some cases, excessive ear wax can accumulate in the ear canal and cause symptoms including:
The Safest Ways to Remove Excess Ear Wax
Many people practice ear wax removal as part of their personal hygiene routine. Some people probe their ear canals with cotton swabs, hair pins, or other objects in an attempt to clean excess ear wax. But if done incorrectly, at-home ear cleaning can actually push wax deeper into your ear canal, block your ear drum, cause irritation of the ear canal, or cause your eardrum to rupture.
To safely clean your ears at home, use a cloth to wipe and wash the fleshy external part of your ear, but avoid putting anything into your ear canal. In some cases, putting a few drops of mineral or baby oil, glycerin, hydrogen or carbamide peroxide, or over-the-counter ear cleaning drops into your ear can help to soften and remove excessive ear wax. It’s best to avoid using cotton swabs or other probing objects for at-home ear cleaning.
If you feel you have excessive amounts of ear wax and it’s affecting your hearing, talk with your doctor. She can examine your ear canal with a lighted instrument called an otoscope and remove problematic ear wax using ear drops, water irrigation, a suctioning device, or other instruments. Some people need to see their doctor every 6 to 12 months for an ear examination and ear cleaning to remove ear wax build-up.
What About Ear Candling?
Ear candling is an ear cleaning practice that involves inserting long, hollow, lighted candles into your ear to remove excessive ear wax. But ear candling is not safe, because it can lead to injury, burns, or obstruction of your ear canal. In fact, because the safety issues associated with them are so serious, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has put regulations into place for the manufacturing and marketing of ear candles.
Find more information in the Everyday Health Ear, Nose, and Throat Center.
When, Why, and How to Do It
Some people swear by their cotton swabs, and others say ear candles are the way to go. Maybe you’re one of those that says you should never even clean your ears.
About the only thing doctors do agree on putting anything inside your ear is a bad idea. Your ears usually do a good job cleaning themselves and don’t need any extra care. The only reason you should clean them is to soften or remove earwax from the outside of your ear canals. And if you’re going to do that, you’ll need to know how to do it carefully.
Why Your Ears Make Wax
The reason we feel tempted to clean our ears is because of that substance called cerumen, commonly called earwax. It’s normal for your body to produce it, and it actually helps protect and lubricate your ears. If you didn’t have earwax, your ears would probably be itchy and dry.
It even has antibacterial properties, which means your ears are self-cleaning. Earwax is like a filter for your ears, keeping out harmful things like dirt and dust, and trapping them so they don’t go deep inside.
When you chew and move your jaw, you help move old earwax out of the ear canal to the ear opening. That’s where it usually dries up and falls out. But earwax isn’t formed in the deep part of your ear canal; it’s made in the outer section.
So, the only reason you’d have an earwax blockage up against your eardrum, is because you tried to clean your ears with a cotton swab — or something like it — and pushed the wax in deeper.
Swabbing or sticking pointy objects inside your ear can cause other serious problems:
Should You Clean Your Ears?
Ideally, no; your ear canals shouldn’t need cleaning. But if too much earwax builds up and starts to cause symptoms or it keeps your doctor from doing a proper ear exam, you might have something called cerumen impaction. This means earwax has completely filled your ear canal and it can happen in one or both ears.
The symptoms of cerumen impaction are:
- Pain or a feeling of fullness in your ear
- Feeling like your ear is plugged
- Partial loss of hearing, which worsens over time
- Ringing in your ear, known as tinnitus
- Itching, discharge, or a smell coming from your ear
This kind of earwax buildup is rare, but it can happen. But if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, don’t assume earwax is the problem. Call your doctor. They can examine your ears and figure out the cause.
Your doctor can look into your ear canal with a special device and remove any earwax with small instruments, suction, or irrigation.
How to Clean Your Ears, and How Not To
If your problem isn’t serious, but you do feel like you have too much earwax buildup, you can gently clean the outside of your ears. Just use a washcloth. You also can try putting a few drops of baby oil, hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, or glycerin in your ear to soften the wax. Or you can use an over-the-counter wax removal kit.
Besides cotton swabs or any other small or pointy objects, don’t use ear candles to clean your ears. Studies show they’re not effective and they can even cause injury. These hollow candles are supposed to be inserted into the ear canal and lit at the exposed end, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found they can cause burns and even pierce the inside of the ear.
8 Crazy Details You Should Learn About Earwax
There are probably more than a few things you don’t know about earwax. After all, it’s kind of weird, right? Like what’s the purpose of that strange tacky substance and how it is made? Consider eight ever so interesting facts about cerumen — that’s earwax by the way — that you didn’t even know were relevant to your ear health.
1. Earwax is Not Really Wax
It’s called wax, but it’s not a wax at all. The name comes from the waxy texture. Earwax is made partially of skin cells from the auditory, or ear, the canal. This area contains skin that is always renewing itself. As dead cells drop off, they are pulled in to produce earwax.
Earwax also consists of secretions from two glands — specifically, the ceruminous and the sebaceous glands. The ceruminous gland is a sweat gland that rests just outside the auditory canal. The sebaceous glands excrete oil that helps lubricate the skin.
When you break it down, earwax is made of:
- Fatty acids
They mix with the dead skin cells to create this very important substance.
2. Earwax Safeguards Your Ears
It’s role is to protect the skin inside the auditory canal. It takes just a small break in that skin to cause an infection that leads to an earache. The strange texture of the earwax lubricates this skin, as well, and it is a natural antimicrobial, so it stops bacterial infections before they can start.
Earwax is similar to other protective elements on the body like nose hairs or tears. You don’t think much about them, either, but they an important part of preventing infection.
3. There are Different Kinds of Earwax
That’s right, surprisingly not all earwax is the same. It comes in two forms: wet and dry. What kind you have depends on genetics just like eye color. Wet earwax is the dominant gene, so it’s common for most people. Individuals with East Asian descent, from China or Korea, for example, usually have the recessive dry gene as do the Native American Indians. It’s a detail important to anthropologists as they track the migration of different cultures throughout the world.
4. Earwax Cleans the Ears
Yes, that is another essential function of earwax. Think of it as a conveyor belt like you see in the grocery store checkout lane. Dirt, dead skin cells and bacteria get stuck in the earwax to create the belt. When the eardrum beats or the jaw moves, the belt goes towards the opening of the ear canal, taking all that debris with it.
The movement of the jaw is responsible for loosening the wax from the wall of the ear canal so that it can be sent through the ear opening as waste.
5. Too Little Earwax a Bad Thing
Everyone has itchy ears sometimes, but it can be a sign of low levels of earwax possibly due to excessive cleaning. Earwax is natural and doesn’t need much help to clean the canal. There few reasons to try to pull it out of the ear, especially if yours are already itchy.
The itch usually means the skin that covers the auditory canal is dry because there isn’t enough earwax. It acts as a natural lubricant, so removing it will just lead to more itching. Instead, try a drop or two of mineral oil to moisten the dry skin.
6. Too Much Earwax is Bad Too
On the other hand, too much earwax might cause a temporary hearing loss. That is what happens when the wax is pushed back during cleaning with a cotton swab, end of a pencil or whatever else you might stick in your ears. Sound travels as a vibration through the canal to the inner ear. That process is disrupted when there is an earwax blockage.
7. It’s Possible to Clean Earwax Out Safely
It’s not done by shoving a cotton swab in the canal, though. There is a reason mom said not to put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear.
First, if you have diabetes or chronic problems with your ears, let the doctor do the cleaning for you. If you do decide to do it yourself, add a few drops of baby oil to the ear canal to soften built-up earwax and, hopefully, dislodge it. Once the wax is soft, you can use a rubber-bulb syringe to run room temperature water through the ear. When the water is in place, tilt your ear to the side and allow it to drain out.
Dry the outside of your ear with a clean towel. If you are prone to swimmer’s ear or ear infections, a few drops of rubbing alcohol will ensure all the water dries up.
8. Not All Hearing Loss is Due to Earwax
If your hearing doesn’t return once the wax is gone and the ears are clean, see your doctor. A professional ear exam and a hearing test can pinpoint that problem, so you can start to hear again even if it means you need hearing aids.
What you need to know
Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
Last updated 2020-03-04T00:00:00-06:00
Of all the substances our bodies excrete, earwax has to be one of the most mysterious. What possible reason could our ears have for producing this waxy substance? Medical professionals may not yet completely understand all of its properties, but they are certain of its protective nature. To understand more, we’ve assembled some interesting facts about earwax—and why you shouldn’t be so hasty to remove it.
Earwax: gross but healthy
While this is a common earwax removal
method, we do not recommend it.
The medical term for earwax is cerumen, a naturally occurring substance in the outer ear. Ingredients for a good batch of earwax include oil and sweat mixed with dirt and dead skin cells. It’s hard to believe something so unappealing can be so important to your ears’ good health, yet being sticky and smelly is exactly why a normal amount of ear wax is beneficial. Consider these attributes:
- Earwax is a natural barrier that prevents dirt and bacteria from entering the innermost parts of your ears. Because it is sticky, it collects microscopic debris that finds its way into your ear canal, much like fly paper traps insects. Without this defensive barrier, your inner ear would be at risk.
- It acts as a moisturizer and protective coating for your ear canal. Without earwax, your outer ear might be itchy and flaky, which puts it at greater risk for becoming irritated and infected.
- It acts as an insect repellant. The smell of earwax keeps bugs away, while the stickiness traps those that accidentally venture inside.
Your earwax says a lot about you
Although most everyone’s ears produce earwax, that’s where the similarity ends. Its composition varies from person to person, depending on their ethnicity, environment, age and diet.
There are two primary types of earwax—wet and dry:
- Wet cerumen is more common in Caucasians and Africans
- Dry cerumen is more common among Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and Asians
Even the color of your cerumen can say a lot about you.
- Dark brown or black colored earwax is typically older, so its color comes from the dirt and bacteria it has trapped. Adults tend to have darker, harder earwax.
- Dark brown earwax that is tinged with red may signal a bleeding injury.
- Light brown, orange or yellow earwax is healthy and normal. Children tend to have softer, lighter-colored earwax.
- White, flaky earwax indicates you lack a body-odor producing chemical. Dark-colored, sticky earwax indicates you should probably use deodorant.
Too much earwax?
Usually, the body knows exactly how much earwax to produce. As long as you maintain a healthy diet, have good hygiene and move your jaw (think chewing and talking), your ears will naturally expel excess earwax, dirt and debris without any intervention. In fact, when you make a habit of removing earwax, that sends a signal to your body to make more, creating an excess which can interfere with hearing, put you at greater risk for developing ear infections and other complications.
Stress and fear can also accelerate earwax production. That’s because the same apocrine glands that produce sweat also produce cerumen. Others who have a tendency to produce too much earwax include those:
- with a lot of hair in their ear canals.
- who suffer from chronic ear infections.
- who have abnormally-formed ear canals or osteomata.
- who are elderly, have certain skin conditions or certain learning disabilities.
How to safely clean your ears
Even though earwax has its benefits, blockages can cause a conductive hearing loss. If you develop a sensation of stuffiness in your ears and suspect earwax is the culprit:
- Do not clean ears with a cotton swab, hairpin or any sharp instrument in an attempt to remove wax yourself. This can push the wax deeper into the ear canal where it is unable to be sloughed off naturally, or you could even puncture your eardrum.
- Do not try ear candling. Besides having no proven benefits, ear candling can cause burns, wax blockage, punctured eardrums and serious injury.
How to clean your ears
While your ears are self-cleaning, there are a few things you can do to keep them clean and free of excess debris:
- Wash your ears using a warm, soapy wash cloth. Letting warm water from your daily shower run into your ears every so often is probably enough to soften and loosen excess earwax.
- If your ears are healthy and you don’t have any tubes or eardrum perforations, you can try to clear excess earwax yourself using an over-the-counter ear cleaning kit. Ask your local pharmacist for a recommendation.
- If you wear hearing aids, make sure you clean them properly.
- If you’re older than 60, have your hearing evaluated periodically by a hearing healthcare professional. Ask your family physician for a referral, or search our online directory to find hearing clinics near you. Besides advising you on your hearing health, they will be able to detect excess cerumen and may safely remove it.
- See a doctor immediately if your home treatments don’t help or if you experience sudden hearing loss, pain or bleeding.
Ask Smithsonian: What’s the Point of Earwax? |
At the Smithsonian
Earwax is often regarded as dirty, or gross—something to be removed with a Q-tip.
But that’s just wrong. Over the decades, countless doctors—and friends and family in the know—have reminded us why it is a bad idea to clean out our ear canals. Still, many of us aren’t hearing the message.
Earwax—also known as cerumen—is made up of secretions from both sebaceous glands and sweat glands mixed with sloughed-off cells from the outer part of the ear canal. Sometimes it gathers hair or dirt. Cerumen is the body’s way of keeping the ear canal clean and lubricated. Its acidic nature also seems to give it some antibacterial properties, says Seth Schwartz, an otolaryngologist and director for the Listen for Life Center at the Virginia Mason Health System in Seattle.
Earwax production and migration—facilitated by talking or chewing or otherwise moving the jaw—is a constant cycle. Where we get into trouble is when we push that mix back into the ear—whether it’s with a Q-tip, a paper clip, a finger or a pen.
Some 12 million Americans visit their doctor each year with complaints about earwax. The most common reason is for impaction, a buildup of wax that’s often due to our own fussing. The wax mass can block the ear canal and press up against the eardrum, which can cause pain, dizziness and hearing loss. The elderly are particularly vulnerable, mainly because their skin is dryer, and muscles have atrophied, which means the wax can’t move out of the ear as easily, says Schwartz. Eight million people a year have medical procedures to remove wax blockage.
Accumulation of cerumen is such a common problem that Schwartz and a group of colleagues are updating a 2008 guideline on diagnosis and treatment that the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery will release in early in 2017.
Why are people so obsessed with removing earwax? Maybe because of the feeling of obstruction, says Schwartz, but “probably part of it is the meticulousness of humans.” He often sees abrasions in his patients’ ears—sometimes even caused by Q-tips, since the ear skin is so delicate.
Everyone produces earwax, and some are prone to produce more. Just like some people perspire profusely while others merely glisten, it is not clear why. Some people are prone to obstruction, especially those with very dry skin or lots of hair in the outer ear, Schwartz says. Those who wear hearing aids tend to have more wax accumulation because the devices block cerumen’s natural migration. People who wear noise-blocking ear muffs on the job or who use phone headsets or earbuds for lengthy periods are also at risk for impaction—not because they produce more wax but because, as with hearing aids, the devices can block cerumen’s exit, Schwartz says.
Earwax comes in either a “wet” form that’s greasy and yellow, or a “dry,” white, flaky form. Race can influence the type of wax produced. Caucasians and African Americans have wet wax, while Asians tend more towards the dry type.
The dry wax also lends itself to obstruction, says Schwartz. That has made for some interesting cultural differences, he says, noting that it’s common in China for restaurant employees to offer to clean your ears while you dine.
Another method of wax clearing—using a lit, hollow candle shoved into the ear—has unclear origins, but both otolaryngologists and the Food and Drug Administration warn against the method, saying that it is neither safe nor effective.
Far from a nuisance, earwax holds the potential to be an indicator of health, according to a 2014 report by researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center. Testing the earwax of healthy Asians and Caucasians yielded some interesting findings, including that Caucasians had higher concentrations of the chemicals detected by odor testing. The scientists said they aim to dig deeper, pointing out that it’s already been shown that at least two odor-producing diseases (maple syrup urine disease and alkaptonuria) can be identified in earwax before they can be detected in blood or urine.
Schwartz says he’s not familiar with the Monell studies, but says he does know that one way to harm your health is to stick something in your ear.
90,000 Earwax Riddles: Why Do We Need It?
- Jason Goldman
- BBC Future
Photo author, Getty
The sulfur that comes out in our ears is a weird thing. Why is it, what does it consist of? And is it true that it is needed in order to kill parasites? Browser
BBC Future is looking for answers to these questions.
Whales never clean their ears. Year after year, sulfur is collected there, according to which you can read the whole story of their life, told in the language of fatty acids, alcohols and cholesterol.
A similar substance accumulates in the auditory canals of many mammals, including humans.
True, our earwax is not that interesting. It will not work to write a biography of a person on it, because most of us regularly clean our ears (we will talk about this below).
However, there is high science behind this base substance.
Earwax is produced only in the outer part of the ear canal, where from one to two thousand sebaceous glands are located (by the way, the same glands on the head provide natural lubrication of the hair) and modified sweat glands.
Add hairs, dead skin cells and other waste products of the body to the resulting secret – and the earwax is ready.
For a long time it was believed that this substance serves primarily as a lubricant (at first it was even used in the manufacture of lip balms).
In addition, it has been claimed to prevent insects from entering the human head through the ear canal.
And some even believe that earwax is, among other things, an antibiotic.
Photo author, Getty
Some have moist and oily sulfur, and some have drier and harder they called it “a sterile earwax trap” and took samples of the substance from 12 people and mixed them in an alcoholic solution.
Bacteria were then added to the resulting medium. The solution was found to kill 99% of bacteria in certain strains, including H.influenzae (which, oddly enough, does not cause influenza) and one of the E. coli strains called K-12.
Other strains of E. coli, as well as streptococci and staphylococci, turned out to be more tenacious – the death rate of these bacteria under the influence of earwax ranged from 30% to 80%.
But it is clear that earwax had a bactericidal effect on all 10 species of bacteria in the study.
Similar results were obtained in 2011 in Germany.Scientists have found that earwax contains ten peptides that can prevent the development of bacteria and fungus.
According to the researchers, infections in the outer part of the ear canal occur precisely due to a malfunction in the defense mechanism, the functioning of which depends on earwax.
However, a study conducted in 2000 at the University of La Laguna in the Canary Islands (Spain) gave completely opposite results.
According to the observations of scientists, earwax had practically no effect on staphylococci, and in most cases it did contribute to the multiplication of bacteria, including E. coli, apparently creating a rich nutrient medium for them.
This is not the only study to question the antimicrobial properties of earwax.
One detail helps shed light on the reason for such significant discrepancies in the conclusions made by scientists in the framework of this and other studies.
Experiments conducted in 1980 and 2011 used dry earwax, while in 2000, scientists chose the wet form for testing.
It is unclear whether this difference actually affects the antimicrobial properties attributed to earwax, but the hypothesis seems tempting, especially since both types of sulfur are essentially composed of the same ingredients.
However, if you haven’t looked into your friends’ ears to see what their sulfur looks like, you will probably be no less surprised than mine to learn that there are really two types of sulfur. To be so frank, to be so frank – my sulfur is wet.
Photo author, Science Photo Library
Washing the ears with a syringe removes excess wax without the risk of damaging the tympanic membrane
The type of earwax is genetically determined and is reduced to a difference in one single letter in a single gene – ABCC11.
If at the beginning of the name of this gene is A, a person has dry sulfur, if G is wet (by the way, the smell of these two types is different).
With the help of earwax, scientists even tried to determine the direction of migration of the population in antiquity.
In descendants of Europeans and Africans, sulfur is most often wet, while in East Asians it is usually dry and scaly.
There is a more even distribution of the two types in the Pacific Islands, Central Asia Minor, and Native American and Inuit populations.
However, for most of us, the most pressing problem with earwax is how to remove it.
Apparently, this issue has been acutely on the agenda since at least the 1st century AD. e.
In his treatise De Medicina (“On Medicine”), the Roman physician Aulus Cornelius Celsus offers a number of methods for removing wax accumulated in the ear canals.
“If this is a crust,” he writes, apparently referring to dry sulfur, “heated vegetable oil is poured inside, mixed either with yar-copperhead in honey or with leek juice, or with a little soda dissolved in honey wine “.Wow!
Once the wax has been loosened, it can be washed out of the ear with water. But “if it is dirt” – which apparently means a wet type of earwax – “vinegar is injected with a little baking soda, and when the dirt softens, the ear is washed.”
In addition, Celsus advises “to rinse the ear with a beaver stream mixed with vinegar, laurel oil and juice from the skin of young radishes or juice of a wild cucumber with the addition of crushed rose leaves. Instilling the juice of unripe grapes with rose oil also gives good results for deafness.”
This recommendation sounds more like a recipe for a witch’s potion than a quote from a scientific treatise, but doctors still use almond or olive oil to soften the cork before trying to remove it.
I must say that for some people the problem of sulfur congestion is really so acute that medical intervention is required to solve it.
Photo author, Getty
Doctors still use olive oil to loosen sulfur plugs
According to an analysis carried out in 2004, about 2.3 million people in the UK see a doctor with this problem every year and about 4 million ears are processed.
Most often, sulfur plugs form in older people, children and people with learning disabilities.
Of course, this problem can lead to hearing loss, but also social isolation and even mild paranoia.
“Some patients with cerumen congestion,” the scientists write, “also show a perforation of the eardrum.”
However, since earwax alone cannot damage the auditory membrane, the conclusion suggests itself that patients are self-inflicting this injury – perhaps by trying to remove the earwax themselves.
Since it is risky to use cotton swabs to remove the plugs – even for qualified doctors, in most cases some emollient is used, followed by rinsing the ear.
However, physicians differ on the optimal emollient and the benefits of rinsing as such.
In 2012, researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine (USA) Anjali Vaidya and Diana Jay Madlon-Kay concluded that the use of earwax softeners, ear washing and other methods of manual removal of wax plugs, although they have the right to existence, but none of these methods are guaranteed to be more correct, safe, or effective than others.
Nevertheless, it is better to entrust this procedure to specialists. Despite all the attendant risks, some people, after taking a shower, boldly poke a cotton swab in their ears, knowing full well that doctors do not recommend doing this.
Excessive exposure can lead to perforation of the tympanic membrane or, paradoxically, to the penetration of sulfur even deeper into the ear canal.
Moreover, sometimes cotton wool falls off the stick and remains in the ear canal as a foreign body.
In general, the main thing to remember: do not use sticks to clean your ears! Or, at the very least, don’t stick them deep into your ear canal.
Another alternative medicine that should be avoided like fire is candling the ears.
This method consists of taking a hollow wax or paraffin candle, holding it to your ear and lighting the opposite end.
It is believed that the heat inside an empty candle pulls the earwax out of the ear canal and can then be easily removed.
If this idea sounds crazy to you, you are absolutely right. It is not substantiated by anything.
In addition, there are many known cases of molten wax getting on the eardrum, which is very painful and dangerous. So consider that we have warned you.
Decreased hearing: hearing loss or simply sulfur plug
Contrary to the prevailing stereotype, using cotton swabs to remove earwax is far from the best way to clean your ears.And we are talking not only about their dubious effectiveness of use for this purpose, but also about the harm that can be done by pushing earwax into the very depths of the ear canal with your own hands or by accidentally piercing the eardrum. Mechanical damage to the inner ear can lead to hearing loss, so it is best to avoid introducing foreign objects into the ear canal. On the other hand, the ears need to be cleaned; otherwise, a sulfur plug can form and clog the ear canal.How can this dilemma be resolved?
What is Sulfur Plug
Sulfur plug is a hardened accumulation of earwax that causes a blockage in the ear canal. It accumulates dirt, sweat and bacteria, so it needs to be removed as soon as possible. Signs of the presence of sulfuric plug include:
- Ringing and pain in the ear.
- Hearing impairment.
- Unpleasant odor from the ear (in some cases).
Risk factors for the formation of sulfur plug include:
- Private use of in-ear tablets.
- Wearing the hearing aid.
For this reason, it is very important to keep your in-the-ear devices, as well as your ears, impeccably clean.
How to keep your ears clean without harming them
Ear cleaning is an integral part of personal hygiene. But, unlike brushing your teeth and washing in the shower, this procedure does not need to be performed as often. The movement of the lower jaw during verbal communication and food intake naturally removes the earwax.However, it is necessary to periodically clean the ear canal.
Removing the sulfur plug is the prerogative of the ENT doctor: he has sufficient experience and the necessary tools to perform this procedure effectively and safely.
Persons with diabetes mellitus, immunodeficiency conditions, perforation of the tympanic membrane, hearing loss, before taking any measures to cleanse the ear canal from earwax, should consult a doctor
As noted above, if you wear a hearing aid, it is very important to keep it clean.All efforts to remove earwax are meaningless if you insert a dirty hearing aid into your ear at the end of the procedure. For these purposes, use the special cleaning kit for hearing aids, which is usually supplied with the device itself at the time of purchase. Ask a specialist to teach you this simple science.
You have a sulfur plug: what to do
If you suspect that you have a cerumen plug, seek professional help from an audiologist or otolaryngologist.It can be difficult to identify the symptoms of this pathological condition on your own: they can be confused with signs of other diseases or not pay any attention to them at all.
If you believe that you are dealing with a cerumen plug, do not try to remove it yourself and do not introduce foreign objects into the ear canal in order to avoid damage to the ear structures that are sensitive to external influences. If the presence of sulfur plug is not confirmed, then your hearing problems may be of a different nature.
For an accurate diagnosis, it is necessary to pass a hearing test at the U-MED Hearing Center. To do this, contact us by phone or leave an online application, and we will contact you.
Need to check hearing
or get a consultation with an audiologist?
Express hearing test
Removal of sulfur plug
Sulfur plug is formed due to increased secretion of sulfuric glands.It consists of sulfur, the secretion of the sebaceous glands, flakes of flattened skin, cholesterol. Normally, they are removed by movements of the anterior wall of the ear canal during conversation, chewing. The retention is facilitated by the narrowness and tortuosity of the ear canal and the increased viscosity of sulfur. The color of the sulfur plug is from yellow to dark brown. The consistency is soft at first, waxy, then dense and even stony.
Symptoms and course
The plug can grow large, but if there is at least a narrow gap between it and the wall of the ear canal, hearing remains normal.However, it is enough to get a small amount of water into the ear, as the sulfur swells and suddenly hearing drops sharply, there is a feeling of congestion, sometimes noise in the ear. The plug can put pressure on the eardrum and cause reflex headaches, dizziness, coughing, and nausea.
Recognition based on complaints, ear examination.
The cork is washed out with warm water. Before doing this, you need to make sure that there was no suppuration from the ear earlier, i.e.That is, that the integrity of the membrane is not compromised. In such cases, the plug is removed using special tools. Rinsing should be done with warm water (37 ° C), so as not to cause dizziness, nausea. The jet from the syringe is directed along the posterior wall of the ear canal, pulling the auricle backward and upward. With sufficient jet force, the plug is washed out in whole or in parts. Then the ear is dried with a cotton wick. If the procedure did not give a tangible result, then the sulfur is softened by instilling alkaline drops or 3% hydrogen peroxide solution.
To prevent the formation of a plug, do not remove the wax with hairpins, the tip of a rolled towel, as this pushes the earwax deep into the ear canal. In addition, the use of sharp objects can injure the membrane and walls of the ear canal.
Sulfur plug: symptoms and treatment
What is sulfur plug
Sulfur plug is a hardened lump of earwax that has blocked the ear canal.Normally, earwax falls out when chewing due to movement of the mandibular joint. If the auditory canal is too narrow due to the peculiarities of the anatomical structure, or too much sulfur of a viscous consistency is formed, its removal is impaired and a sulfur plug is formed.
Disease also known as
- Ear plug;
In English, the disease is called Cerumen Impaction.
Most often, sulfur plugs are formed due to improper hygiene of the external ear canal, namely the use of cotton swabs, hairpins and other items not intended for this purpose.Also, the reason may be:
- inflammatory processes in the external auditory canal;
- prolonged stay in a dusty room;
- anatomically narrow and short ear canal;
- constant wearing of hearing aids, headphones;
- Natural tendency towards increased sulfur release.
Who is at risk
The greatest likelihood of developing the disease in people with the following risk factors:
- childhood – in children, the ear canal is shorter and narrower than in adults;
- wearing hearing aids;
- those whose activities are related to being in dusty and smoky rooms;
- improper hygiene of the external auditory canal.
How often occurs
According to statistics, sulfur plug is formed in 1 in 10 children, 1 in 20 adults and a third of the elderly population. It is the most common reason for visiting an ENT doctor.
Most often, patients complain of hearing loss . An especially characteristic symptom is the almost complete loss of hearing after warm water gets into the affected ear, due to the fact that the sulfur plug increases in size. Patients are also concerned with a feeling of bloating in the ear, itching, ringing in the ears, pain in the ear .If the plug presses heavily on the eardrum, then headache, dizziness, nausea, and coughing may occur.
Diagnosis of the disease
Interview and examination
At the reception, the doctor asks the patient about complaints . Inspection of the external auditory canal is carried out with a special device with an otoscope , which looks like a funnel. The doctor assesses the patency of the ear canal, the condition of its walls.
Laboratory and instrumental examination
When performing laboratory and instrumental examinations deviations from the norm are not observed .
- Remove plug;
- restore hearing.
Lifestyle and aids
There is no need for lifestyle changes when treating cerumen.
Systemic medicines are not used to treat cerumen. Topically, drugs can be used that soften and dissolve the plug in the external auditory canal.
Symptoms of the disease disappear after removing the sulfur plug.There are three ways to carry out this procedure:
- The plug is flushed out using an electronic irrigator, Janet’s syringe or a special nozzle on a regular syringe. It is ineffective if the plug is firm and completely covers the ear canal. Sometimes patients are advised to do this procedure at home on their own using a syringe. It is strictly forbidden if there is a perforation of the tympanic membrane.
- Cerumenolysis – administration of drugs that soften and dissolve the cork.For this purpose, hydrogen peroxide, sodium bicarbonate and special pharmaceutical preparations are used: Audi-spray, Remo-Wax, cerumex and some others. The safest way, but sometimes it turns out to be ineffective.
- Instrumental removal is the most effective method, performed only by a doctor using an otoscope and a special curette instrument.
If the extraction of the sulfur plug went without complications, then the operation is not required.
Restoration and improvement of the quality of life
Patients do not need rehabilitation after the removal of the sulfur plug.
If the plug is in the ear canal for a long time, then the wax masses that have dried on the skin can injure it and cause otitis externa. Inflammation can also develop in the area of the tympanic membrane (otitis media).
First of all, the occurrence of wax plugs is prevented by proper ear hygiene.You can not clean sulfur with cotton swabs, hairpins, matches and other objects. To maintain hygiene, it is enough to rinse the auricle, lobes and the area behind the ears with water. There is no need to clean out the wax, as it has a protective function, preventing dirt and bacteria from entering the ear canal.
The condition does not threaten hearing loss and is not life threatening.
What questions should you ask your doctor
- How to properly care for your ears so that this does not happen again?
- Which method is the best for me to remove the sulfur plug?
- Can I do it myself at home if this happens again? If so, how?
- If I work in unfavorable conditions, do I need any additional prophylaxis?
- Garov E.V., Sulfur plugs: a new look at an old problem. Regular issues of “RMZh” No. 27 dated 23.10.2012.
- Schwartz, S. R., Magit, A. E., Rosenfeld, R. M., Ballachanda, B. B., Hackell, J. M., Krouse, H. J., … Cunningham, E. R. (2017). Clinical Practice Guideline (Update): Earwax (Cerumen Impaction). Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, 156 (1_suppl), S1 – S29.
Sulfur plug – Rasskazovskaya CRH
Composition and functions of earwax
The main components of earwax are fats, cholesterol, unsaturated fatty acids and wax esters.Therefore, it does not dissolve in water, realizing the natural lubrication of the skin of the external auditory canal, as well as preventing it from drying out and protecting it from dust particles.
In addition, sulfonamides (inhibit the growth of pathogens), lysozyme (an enzyme that destroys the cell walls of bacteria) and immunoglobulins (cells of the immune system) are added to the earwax. Thanks to these components and the acidic reaction (pH = 4-6), earwax protects the external auditory canal from bacteria and fungi.
That is, the formation of earwax is a physiological process that is necessary for the protection and normal functioning of the hearing organ.
What is the self-cleaning mechanism of earwax?
The external auditory canal contacts the inside of the temporomandibular joint. And thanks to his movements while talking or chewing, earwax moves outward from the eardrum.
In addition, the skin of the external auditory canal grows at a rate equal to the growth of nails.As it grows, it moves outward from the tympanic membrane, shifting the earwax towards the exit. That is, for example, sulfur attached to the eardrum will move outward on its own within 3-4 months.
Also in the skin of the external auditory canal there are cilia, which, making oscillatory movements, move the earwax from the inside out.
However, unfortunately, often under the influence of certain factors, the work of the sulfur and sebaceous glands, as well as the self-cleaning mechanism, is disrupted.
Causes of the formation of a sulfur plug
Improper hygienic care of the external auditory canal
Excessive and rough use of cotton ear buds or cleaning the external auditory canal with improvised means (for example, pins or needles) is the most common cause of the formation of a sulfur plug.
As a result, the skin of the external auditory canal is injured, and the production of secretion by the sulfur glands increases. Next, the earwax is pushed deep into the eardrum, where it is compacted.Therefore, the process of its self-cleaning is disrupted.
In addition, during intensive cleaning, the cilia of the skin of the external auditory canal are damaged. Therefore, they cease to perform their function: the advancement of the formed sulfur outward.
It is noteworthy that often the ways of improper hygienic care of the external auditory canal are “from childhood.” Because children, observing adults, adopt their methods of removing earwax.
There is a tortuosity or narrowness of the external auditory canal, therefore, the process of self-cleaning of earwax is impaired.
Moreover, the anatomical features of the structure can be both congenital and acquired (for example, appear after an injury).
Tendency to increased secretion of earwax
Occurs with disorders of fat metabolism in the body, which lead to increased formation of cholesterol, which is part of earwax. As a result, it becomes more viscous, therefore, the process of its self-cleaning from the external auditory canal is disrupted.
Inflammatory and infectious diseases of the external auditory canal (for example, external otitis media )
Lead to an increase in the production of secretion by the sebaceous and sulfur glands, but it does not have time to be removed, therefore it accumulates.
In addition, the lumen of the external auditory canal decreases due to inflammatory edema of the skin. As a result, a mechanical obstacle is created in the way of earwax self-cleaning.
The qualitative composition of earwax is also changing: the number of protective factors (lysozyme, immunoglobulins and others) decreases in it. Therefore, the ear glands are secondarily affected by pathogens, and the course of an infectious-inflammatory disease is aggravated.
Using hearing aids or regularly wearing headphones
Causes trauma to the skin of the ear canal (eg, abrasions), which increases the production of earwax.Subsequently, it is pushed into the external auditory canal and compacted.
In addition, conditions are created for the attachment of a secondary infection and the development of inflammatory diseases in the outer ear.
Excessive hair growth inside the external auditory canal
Disrupts the self-cleaning process from earwax. Most often, this reason occurs in elderly patients.
Working in a dusty environment (eg a mill or mines)
Dust settles in the ear canal.As a result, the secretion of the ear glands increases, and the work of the cilia of the skin is disrupted.
Foreign body in the lumen of the external auditory canal
Leads to an increase in the secretion of the ear glands (a natural defense reaction of the body), which does not have time to be removed. In addition, a mechanical obstacle is created on the way to self-purification of sulfur.
Prolonged stay in a room with dry air (humidity up to 40%)
Leads to the drying out of the secretion of the external auditory canal, therefore a sulfur plug of a solid consistency is formed.
The older the person, the higher the risk of sulfur plug formation. Since with age, the mechanisms of self-cleaning of earwax weaken, and its production by the glands increases.
In addition, the number of hairs in the ear canal tends to increase in older patients. Therefore, an additional obstacle is created on the way of sulfur self-purification.
Sulfur plug symptoms
Sulfur plug, as a rule, does not manifest itself for a long time.Only with almost complete overlap of the lumen of the external auditory canal (70% or more) do the signs of sulfur plug appear. Moreover, they can occur both on one and on both sides, if a sulfuric plug is formed in both ears.
Congestion and noise in the ear , hearing loss
Symptoms develop slowly due to the gradual accumulation of wax in the external auditory canal. Therefore, the patient usually does not pay any attention to the fact that gradually deafens, and noise appears in the ears.
Dry and irritating cough , nausea and dizziness, moderate pain and echo of your own voice in the ear
Signs appear if a sulfur plug presses on the eardrum, irritating its nerve endings.
With prolonged pressure of the sulfur plug, inflammation of the tympanic membrane (myringitis) or the middle ear cavity (otitis media) sometimes develops.
As a result, mild ear pain appears (with otitis media, it intensifies during chewing or talking), body temperature may rise moderately, and small discharge (most often purulent) appears from the external auditory canal.
Most often, the first signs of sulfur plug appear on contact with water (for example, after diving in the pool or bathing in the shower). As it swells and is partially pushed inward closer to the tympanic membrane, blocking the lumen of the external auditory canal.
How to remove the sulfur plug
There are several ways: the use of pharmacy drugs at home, as well as the use of hardware methods in a medical institution.
How to remove sulfur plug at home
Trying to independently remove a large sulfur plug at home and in the presence of severe symptoms is useless, and not always harmless. Because it is possible to accidentally introduce an infection, damage the eardrum or the skin of the ear canal.
However, small sulfur plugs can be removed with care at home. Moreover, it is necessary to use pharmaceutical products (ear drops), and not hygienic cotton swabs.
Why can’t you use cotton swabs?
Because with their help, the earwax is compacted and pushed closer to the eardrum. That is, the sulfur plug, on the contrary, increases in size.
In addition, such deep cleaning can injure the skin of the ear canal and / or the eardrum (perforation – breakage).
Drops for removing sulfur plug – pharmacy
Used for safe and painless removal of sulfur plugs at home, as well as for the prevention of its formation.In addition, ear drops are used as a preparatory stage before the doctor removes the ear plug of the ENT.
Most commonly used agents for cerumenolysis
Form of issue
Method of application
In dropper bottles, 2 ml
To remove the sulfur plug , 1 ml of the solution (the floor of the dropper bottle) is instilled into the external auditory canal, after one minute it is cleaned.The procedure is carried out twice a day for 3-4 days.
To prevent the formation of sulfur plugs (for example, in patients using a hearing aid), a solution of 1 ml is instilled into each ear canal twice a month.
In 10 ml vials with plastic dispenser
To remove the sulfur plug , 10 to 20 drops of the solution are instilled into the external auditory canal of the diseased ear, after 20-60 minutes it is removed.The procedure is carried out daily for 3-4 days.
To prevent the formation of sulfur plugs the drug is used once every two weeks.
When should you not use ear drops?
- In case of a defect (violation of the integrity) of the tympanic membrane.
- If the patient has chronic otitis media or has had purulent otitis media in the past.
- A-Cerumen is contraindicated for use in children under 2.5 years of age.
Can peroxide be used to remove the sulfur plug?
Yes, 3% hydrogen peroxide can be used. Whereas the use of a higher percentage of the solution is contraindicated, since it causes a chemical burn to the skin of the external auditory canal and eardrum.
Mechanism of action of hydrogen peroxide
Contacting tissues, peroxide breaks down into molecular oxygen and water. In this case, oxygen oxidizes tissues (in this case, a sulfur plug), forming a foam that mechanically cleans the external auditory canal.
Moreover, it should be remembered that hydrogen peroxide leads to swelling of the sulfur plug, therefore, ear congestion and hearing loss increase. However, after cleansing the external auditory canal, the symptoms disappear.
When shouldn’t hydrogen peroxide be used?
- If there is a defect in the eardrum.
- If the patient has had purulent otitis media in the past or is currently suffering from chronic otitis media.
Hydrogen peroxide should be used with caution as it can burn the skin of the ear canal and / or eardrum.Therefore, if during the procedure there is a pronounced burning sensation and pain in the ear, stop it and be sure to consult an ENT doctor.
Do I need to rinse my ear to remove the wax plug?
Washing (irrigation) is the most common and effective way to remove a sulfur plug by an otolaryngologist.
While it is not recommended to remove the sulfur plug by washing it yourself at home. Since there is a high probability of damage to the eardrum and / or the skin of the external auditory canal.
How to flush the sulfur plug?
If the sulfur plug is soft, then flushing is carried out without preliminary preparation.
When the sulfur plug is dry, it must be softened first. For this purpose, 3% hydrogen peroxide is instilled into the external auditory canal of the diseased ear 5-6 times a day, half a pipette with 3% hydrogen peroxide for 2-3 days. Or, agents for cerumenolysis are used according to the instructions.
For washing the external auditory canal, water or any solution of an external antiseptic (for example, furacilin), which is heated to 37 ° C, is used.
There are instrumental (manual) and hardware methods for washing out the sulfur plug:
- With a Janet syringe, with a capacity of 100-200 ml.
During the procedure, the doctor will apply a jet of water under increased pressure into the ear canal towards the eardrum. Due to this, particles of the sulfur plug leave the place of attachment. The water then flows into the tray through the outlet of the ear canal.
However, Janet’s syringe is capable of creating a pressure of up to 10 atmospheres. Whereas the eardrum only withstands 2 atmospheres. Therefore, the success of the procedure largely depends on the professionalism of the doctor.
- The electronic irrigator (Propluse 4th generation) is used – a new technique that has found widespread use.
The effectiveness of the procedure is based on the impulsive nature of the jet supply, as well as the ability to regulate its pressure. This ensures complete, painless and safe removal of the sulfur plug.
When shouldn’t you rinse the ear to remove the wax plug?
- Violation of the integrity of the tympanic membrane (perforation) – the result of trauma or previous infection.
- Presence of acute or chronic otitis media.
- Suppurative otitis media transferred in the past.
Because in these cases, the ingress of water into the middle ear cavity can lead to an exacerbation of the chronic inflammatory process.
Prevention of sulfur plugs
Essential for everyone, but especially for people with an increased risk of wax accumulation in the external ear canal.
What to do?
- Clean the auricle and the entrance opening of the external auditory canal with a swab dipped in water, without penetrating into the external auditory canal.
- To improve the natural flow of wax, hold your earlobe and pull it down several times. This “exercise” is recommended to be carried out daily in the morning.
- Use stopper ear buds as needed, but don’t overdo it.Since they cleanse the ear canal quite well from earwax, preventing deep penetration into it.
- If you have an increased risk of cerumen plugging (for example, using hearing aids or working in a dusty environment), use a cerumenolysis agent (for example, Remo-Vaxom) for prevention.
- Maintain a room humidity of at least 40% using humidifiers.
- Use protective ear plugs when working in dusty environments.
- When swimming in a pool or open water, protect your ear canal from water by wearing a cap or wearing protective equipment. There are special earplugs for swimming: wax-impregnated swabs, water-proof or water-repellent plugs.
- If the anatomical structure of the external auditory canal is prone to the formation of a sulfur plug, periodically visit an otolaryngologist and follow all his recommendations.
What to avoid?
- Do not use hygienic cotton swabs, penetrating deep into the external auditory canal. Since the sulfur is pushed closer to the eardrum and compacted. In addition, there is a risk of injury to the eardrum if accidentally distracted by another event during the procedure. Young children especially suffer from this, because during cleaning they fidget or pull out of their mother’s hands.
- Do not use matches, knitting needles, pins, or other sharp objects to remove the sulfur plug.Since there is a high risk of injury to the eardrum and the skin of the external auditory canal.
- Avoid sudden changes in ambient temperature. For example, in the heat – the transition from the street to a room where the air conditioner is working.
- Do not use ear wax candles to remove wax plugs on your own and without consulting your ENT doctor, as you may harm yourself. For example, cause a burn to the eardrum or the skin of the external auditory canal, and in the presence of inflammation in the external ear, aggravate the course of the disease.
ENT specialist L.V. Ledov.
Why do you need earwax – ENT clinic №1
Since Soviet times, the older generation has firmly absorbed the ideology of Soviet children’s literature and cinematography, in which the restless octopuses and pioneers – orderlies (“Tamara and I are a couple, the orderlies are with Tamara!”) For some reason very diligently checked their comrades for cleanliness not only hands, but also ears.
Apparently, this is also where a whole generation developed an indisputable axiom: sulfur is dirt! And at the same time an irresistible need to “clean” ears. And this rich baggage of hygiene skills smoothly migrated into our modern times.
But still, why is earwax needed and what is its function?
Let’s dispel all the myths and answer why you need earwax
In fact, sulfur is nature’s unique “concern” for the health of our ear canal.Firstly, it creates a reliable water-repellent barrier and water that accidentally got into while bathing quietly comes back without being absorbed into the skin and without causing it to macerate (swelling and oozing). Secondly, it contains substances with antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. And, therefore, it carefully protects the external auditory canal, where ultraviolet rays, which have a disinfecting effect, do not penetrate, and the temperature and humidity are very comfortable for the reproduction of microorganisms, from infection.
Sulfur is produced in the cartilaginous part of the ear canal, which is relatively mobile and, thanks to the movements of the lower jaw, the sulfur is gradually pushed towards the auricle, where its visible part can be removed with the tip of a damp towel or ear stick solely for aesthetic purposes. Inside, in the invisible part, it should not be removed.
Removal of sulfur plugs in ENT clinic No. 1
Of course, sulfur can be produced in excessive quantities, this is not a pathology, but only a feature of the functioning of the sulfur glands, and then a sulfur plug is formed.In such cases, do not try to cope with the problem on your own; to solve the problem, you need to consult an ENT doctor. In Moscow, this can be done in the ENT clinic number 1, where the otorhinolaryngologist will conduct an otoscopy (examination of the ear canal using an endoscope) to confirm the presence of a sulfur plug, remove it either with a special instrument or by washing, and then conduct a second otoscopy to make sure that the problem has been solved and to examine the eardrum and the skin of the ear canal to exclude inflammatory manifestations that can be caused by mechanical irritation with prolonged presence of the plug in the ear canal, in this case, treatment will be prescribed.
The doctor spoke about the dangers of sticks when cleaning the ears – Rossiyskaya Gazeta
Sticks should be used for drums, not for the eardrum in the ear. The fact is that it is an extremely sensitive part of the human auditory organ.
It is a thin and rather vulnerable membrane. According to statistics cited by aif.ru, 40 percent of ear injuries occur when cleaning the ears from wax with a cotton swab.
The fact is that the stick will only push the sulfur mass deeper to the membrane, where it will be compressed and remain.And since there are nerve endings on the membrane, the ear begins to ache. Removing these compressed masses is extremely difficult.
As the candidate of medical sciences, otolaryngologist Vladimir Zaitsev told the publication, the danger of damaging the ear is also threatened when it is buried with various drugs. Someone manages to use pure alcohol for these purposes, someone kerosene. Everything is used – infusions of various herbs, chopped garlic and onions.
According to the doctor, there are three types of drops: water-based, alcohol-based, antibacterial drugs.For each specific situation, certain drops are needed. From uncontrolled drinking in the ear of boric alcohol, camphor and other alcoholic tinctures, the eardrum can be perforated. Then, depending on the immunity, the wound heals up sooner or later, but scars form on it. If the overgrowth remains incomplete – such an option is not excluded – then the person is doomed to distort the sound.
Compresses in the form of cotton wool dipped in alcohol and placed directly in the ear can lead to swelling and rupture of the membrane.As a result, we open the gate in the ear for different infections. A person with such a membrane injury will no longer be able to swim normally in a pool or sea.
The ear is closely connected with the brain, the specialist warns. If inflammation begins in it, it can quickly spread to the meninges and develop into meningitis.