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The Truth About Ear Wax and How to Properly Clean Your Ears

 What is ear wax?

Ear wax, also known as cerumen, is a sticky, yellowish substance produced by the outer third of the ear canal. It is naturally produced by our ears for the purpose of cleaning your ears from the inside out. Ear wax also lubricates and helps protect our ears from damage and infections.

What does ear wax look like?

Cerumen can look a few different ways – it could be firm and solid or dry and flaky or almost liquid. This can vary from person to person. It tends to be a yellowish color.
How does ear wax work?

Ear wax is between 20-50% fat. It coats the skin of the ear canal and acts as a moisturizer, water repellent, infection fighter and general protector against dust, dirt and germs from getting into the ear. Ear wax is produced about one third of the way into your ear canal and it slowly makes its way out of the ear, taking with it anything that shouldn’t be in the ear, including dead skin and hair cells.

How do I know if I have too much ear wax?

Excessive ear wax can have a variety of different symptoms, including:

  • Hearing problems / hearing loss
  • Ear infection
  • A plugged sensation in the ear
  • Tinnitus – ringing in the ears
  • Itching
  • Coughing
  • Odor coming from the ear
  • Discharge from the ear canal

How do I clean ear wax from my ears?

Did your mother ever tell you not to put things in your ears? She was right! You should never stick anything in your ears, even to clean them! Do not stick cotton swabs (or any other foreign objects) into your ears as you will risk damaging the very delicate ear drum or the ear canal itself. You may also be pushing more ear wax back into the ear than you’ll be removing.

Regular bathing should take care of any ear cleaning. To clean your ears safely, use a cloth to wipe only the outside area of the ear. Avoid sticking anything into your ear canal. If you feel that you may have excessive amounts of ear wax, visit your doctor for a proper examination. If you have excessive ear wax build up, your doctor can safely remove it for you.

Do you think you have hearing loss either due to excessive ear wax or some other cause? Visit a hearing health professional to get tested and investigate your options.
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Sources:
Everyday Health
MedicineNet
CHealth

Ken LaFerle, Au.D.
Ken is Beltone's Director of Educational Services and has been "bleeding Beltone Blue" for the last 26 years. He has been working in the hearing industry for the last 31 years and thoroughly enjoys the hearing care field and is looking forward to sharing his thoughts and experiences on the blog. More about Ken

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