Earwax is often the butt of many an ill-conceived joke on a Saturday morning cartoon. Your Boone audiologist is here to set the record straight – earwax is important.
Cerumen is the medical term for the waxy, yellowish substance found in healthy ears. It not only protects your ear from bacteria, water and foreign particles, but it assists in the cleaning and lubrication of the ear canal.
If everything is working properly, the earwax produced by your ears will do its job and be flushed out naturally. But a buildup can occur and lead to a few problems.
What causes a buildup of earwax?
A blockage of earwax is usually caused by an overproduction of earwax or insufficient cleaning. Want to take a wild guess on what the most common cause of blockage is? Incorrect at-home cleanings! Many of us were taught to use a cotton swab to clean our ears. If that is you – stop it right now! A cotton swab can actually push the earwax deeper into the ear instead of cleaning it out.
How do you know if you have too much earwax?
A blockage of earwax will cause:
- A feeling of fullness in the ear
- Hearing loss
If the earwax is not removed, an infection can develop. This causes severe pain in the ear and a fever that does not subside.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should talk to your Blue Ridge doctor, as these may also be signs of a more serious condition.
How is a buildup of earwax treated?
This is a pretty easy diagnosis to make – your Blue Ridge doctor simply looks in your ear with a special magnifying instrument called an otoscope.
Once a buildup of earwax is determined to be the cause of your symptoms, it will be removed.
This can be done a few ways: with a small curved instrument called a curette, through suction or by flushing out the wax using a water pick or warm water.
If this continues to be a problem, wax-removal medications may be recommended.
At-home treatments can be very effective at managing earwax, as long as your ear is healthy and does not have a hole in it.
An eyedropper can be used to apply a few drops of baby oil, mineral oil or hydrogen peroxide into the ear canal; this is done to soften the wax. Once soft, the wax is ready to be removed. A rubber-bulb syringe can be used to gently squirt warm water into the ear canal. Once the water has drained out of the ear, the ear should be dried with a towel. This procedure can be repeated several times until the wax has been removed.
To learn more about earwax or to schedule an appointment, contact your Blue Ridge doctor today.