Ear Wax

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Wax is an oily substance formed by glands in the outer portion of the ear canal. Ancient monks used this oily property of the wax to illuminate their manuscripts!

Wax helps in the cleaning and lubrication of the ear canal. Wax has also been shown to have some bactericidal effect, serving to protect the ear canal from infections.

The inner two-thirds of the ear canal is lined by highly specialized skin, with a property that is unique in the body - that of lateral migration. This means that material is moved in an outward direction, starting from the ear drum, at a rate of about 100 μm per day. This "conveyor belt" helps keep the ear canal clean.

Impacted Ear Wax

Ear WaxThe practice of using cotton buds to clean the ears often times only serves to push wax and debris further down the ear canal, and disrupts this naturally occurring "conveyor belt" mechanism. The wax then becomes blocked, or impacted.

People who use hearing aids and ear plugs are also more prone to developing impacted wax.

Symptoms of Impacted Wax

Decreased hearing, dizziness, ear pain or discomfort or ringing in the ear (tinnitus).


Getting Rid of Impacted Wax

Over-the-counter wax softening drops may be used. If this does not help, then you should see your doctor, who can help you get rid of the impacted wax. A technique known as ear syringing is often used to flush out wax which is blocking the ear canal. Suction devices are also used.

Be sure to let your doctor know if you have a history of a perforated ear drum before any procedure is done to the ear.

Further Reading

The article above is meant to provide general information and does not replace a doctor's consultation.
Please see your doctor for professional advice.