What’s Earwax, and What Should You Do About It?

What's Earwax and What Should You Do About It? - Northwest Hearing + Tinnitus - Audiology, Seattle and Olympia, WA
Earwax is a natural part of your ears’ health, but it can still cause problems at times.

Have you read or heard any stories claiming that earwax causes hearing loss? When a physical barrier prevents sounds from reaching the eardrum, the condition is known as conductive hearing loss, and earwax build-up is actually the most frequent cause of this condition.

Having said that, earwax is a misunderstood substance. Let’s learn a little more about this important part of your ears’ health.

What Earwax Is and Why It’s Important

Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a natural secretion of the ear canal. Despite being commonly perceived as dirty or gross, earwax actually serves a vital role in maintaining the health of our ears. Here are five important points about earwax:

  1. Protection: One of the primary functions of earwax is to protect our ear canals from foreign objects, such as dust, dirt, and insects, as well as from bacteria and other microorganisms that could cause infections. Earwax forms a protective barrier that helps keep our ears clean and healthy.
  2. Moisturizing: Cerumen also helps to moisturize the skin inside the ear canal, which can become dry and itchy without it. This is especially important for people who live in dry climates or who frequently swim or engage in water activities.
  3. Self-cleaning: Our ears are self-cleaning, and the wax plays an important role in this process. As new wax is produced, it gradually pushes out the old, dry wax, along with any debris or dirt that has accumulated in the ear canal. This helps to keep our ears clean and prevent blockages.
  4. Antibacterial properties: Earwax contains a number of natural antimicrobial substances, including lysozyme, which helps to kill bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause infections in the ear canal.
  5. Indicator of health: The color, texture, and amount of cerumen that we produce can be an indicator of our overall health. For example, unusually dry or flaky earwax could be a sign of a skin condition, while unusually wet or runny wax could indicate an infection or other underlying health issue.

Why then does it result in blockages?

Wax Build-up Has Some Surprising Causes

Simply put, some individuals make too much cerumen. In some cases, the ear canal prevents the wax from moving properly. However, these are less frequent reasons for wax blockage. The removal of cerumen at home is the primary cause of clogged ears. It’s a common misconception that you can and should use cotton swabs to clean your ears. However, removing earwax with cotton swabs frequently leads to the wax being pushed deeper into the ear canal, which then causes a blockage. Frequent use of earbuds and the use of hearing aids, particularly in older people, are two other common causes of excessive build-up.

How and When Should Earwax be Removed?

You might be asking, “What should I do about my earwax at this point?” It turns out, it’s best to let your ears clean themselves if you’re not exhibiting any symptoms. Hearing loss, tinnitus, a feeling that the ear is full, and also earaches are among the typical symptoms of excessive cerumen build-up. If you experience any of those signs, you should see an audiologist. Only a trained ear specialist is able to effectively and safely remove earwax. If the condition is not treated, it may result in ear infections, which can be extremely painful, and even cause additional complications. Finding a reputable hearing clinic in Seattle is essential because more severe cases actually require immediate intervention.

Seattle Audiologists

Your audiologist can help you find the appropriate treatment for your hearing health. It’s important to keep in mind that hearing loss can occur for a variety of reasons, not only earwax build-up, so getting your hearing checked out is usually a wise decision. To benefit from our knowledge of hearing solutions in the Seattle and Olympia area, get in touch with our experienced team at Northwest Hearing today!