The skin on the outer part of the ear canal has special glands that produce ear wax, also known as cerumen. This natural wax serves to protect the ear from damage and infections. Normally, a small amount of wax accumulates and then dries up and falls out of the ear canal, carrying with it unwanted dust or sand particles. Ear wax is helpful to coat the skin of the ear canal where it acts as a temporary water repellent. The absence of ear wax may result in dry, itchy ears, and even infection. Ear wax is formed in the outer third of the ear canal.
Everyone makes ear wax, but the amount and type are genetically determined just like hair colour or height. Smaller or oddly shaped ear canals may make it difficult for the naturally occurring wax to get out of the canal and lead to wax impactions.
Ear wax blockage occurs when ear wax (cerumen) accumulates in your ear or becomes too hard to wash away naturally. Ear wax is a helpful and natural part of your body’s defences. It cleans, lubricates and protects your ear canal by trapping dirt and slowing the growth of bacteria. If ear wax blockage becomes a problem, you or your doctor can take simple steps to remove the wax safely.
EAR WAX CAUSES
- Blockage, or impaction, also occurs when the wax gets pushed deep within the ear canal. Ear wax blockage is one of the most common ear problems doctors see.
- The most common cause of impactions is the use of Q-tips (and other objects such as bobby pins and rolled napkin corners), which can remove superficial wax but also pushes the rest of the wax deeper into the ear canal.
- Hearing aid and earplug users are also more prone to ear wax blockage.
- Narrowing of the canal resulting from infections or diseases of the skin, bones, or connective tissue
- Production of less fluid form of cerumen (more common in older persons due to aging of the glands that produce it).
SYMPTOMS OF AN EAR WAX IMPACTION INCLUDE
- Decreased hearing
- Ear pain
- Plugged or fullness sensation
- Ringing in the ear
- Itching or drainage from the ear canal
Most cases of ear wax blockage can be treated at home. The following can be used to soften wax in the ear:
- Baby oil
- Commercial drops
- Mineral oil
Do not clean your ears too often or too hard. Ear wax also helps protect your ears.
Never try to clean the ear by putting any object, such as a Q-tip, into the ear canal.
If you cannot remove the wax plug or you have discomfort, consult a health care provider, who may remove the wax by:
Repeating the irrigation attempts
Suctioning the ear canal
Using a small device called a curette
Using a microscope to help.
By: Umaru Maryam Hadejia