Health issues normally don’t cover an important organ we use for hearing, i.e., our ears. Today’s article will relate on ear issues and how we should maintain our ears.

Our ears are complex organs which play several roles, but many people think that ears are only used for hearing. Men’s ears are larger than women’s ears, and our ears do get larger as we age, which could be a reason why senior people suffer hearing loss.

Our ears are made up of 3 main sections, the external ear, middle ear and inner ear, having different features which when work together, allow us to hear and balance.

Our ears have another important function in that they help us to maintain our balance. The middle ear has an Eustachian tube which plays the role of equalizing air pressure in the middle ear with the atmosphere’s air pressure, enabling us to retain our balance.

The Eustachian tube works with the vestibular complex in the inner ear, which contains receptors that regulate equilibrium. The inner ear connects to the vestibulocochlear nerve that carries both sound and equilibrium information to the brain.

Your eardrums separate the external ear from the middle ear. The sensitive skin in your ears have glands that secrete cerumen, commonly known as ear wax. This wax coating lines the outer half of your ear canal. It may be difficult to believe, but earwax along with the tiny hairs in our ears, provide protection against dust and dirt and other microscopic elements, to your inner year, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Dr Christopher Chang, an otolaryngologist (ENT specialist) in Warrenton, Virginia, says, “Generally speaking, the ear canal is self-cleaning.”

The Mayo Clinic also says when new wax is produced, the older wax gets pushed out of your ear and falls out naturally. As Dr Chang explains, “You really don’t have to do a whole lot. You also clean your ears a bit just by living your life. The act of opening and closing your mouth moves your ear canals just enough to shake loose some wax.”

Dr Erich Voigt, clinical associate professor and chief of general/sleep otolaryngology at NYU Langone Health, is in agreement with Dr Chang, saying, “Through chewing and talking, the ear auto-cleans.”

Using a washcloth, gentle soap and water to clean your ears, including behind the ears, while showering is recommended by Dr Voigt. To be specific, wipe down the outer ear folds and earlobe, but the outer ear canal should not be cleaned.

Using your little finger to dig out a bit of earwax at the opening of your ear canal should be avoided, as you will end up pushing earwax further into your ear. When the sticky earwax builds up and hardens inside the outer ear, it will cause an earwax blockage which cannot be discarded naturally. An earwax blockage can then cause a perforated eardrum when it accidentally punctures the layer of tissue that protects your eardrum.

Dr Voigt reiterates his advice to stay away from the ear canal, by saying, “I tell people to put their finger in their towel and kind of just mark the opening of the ear. This way you’ll remove any unsightly wax from debris and any material that would be visible, but you’re not going into the canal, which would disrupt the natural cleaning process.”

Some people produce more earwax than others, just like some people perspire more than others. Dr Voigt feels this is not a big problem unless you end up with blockages that start to interfere with your hearing, which is when you should consult an ENT specialist instead of trying to scrape the earwax out.

Earbuds could be an indication of earwax blockage, if you notice earwax every time you use an earbud. So if you do use earbuds and consistently notice earwax, do see a doctor as a doctor is the best person to remove earwax safely.

Bear in mind that the cotton swabs on the ends of earbuds can cause microabrasions or tiny cuts in your ear, which in turn puts you at risk of getting an ear infection.

Earwax also has another protection benefit. According to Dr Voigt, “It’s a waterproof agent. So when water goes in, the wax protects the skin, and then it’ll bead up…so it’s protection from infection.” Keep this in mind when you are tempted to clean your ears to get that last bit of earwax out.

What about the popular ear candling to remove earwax? For those who don’t know, ear candling involves sticking a cone-shaped candle into the ear to remove earwax. Heat from the lit candle is supposed to draw out earwax that will stick to the other end of the candle.

Dr Voigt says, You’ve got a flame near hair.  I’ve also seen the wax heated and slide down onto the eardrum.”

Dr Voigt also advises to stay away from products like earwax softeners and removal kits, as these chemicals do soften the wax but may cause it to slide further down into your ear and harden. Also refrain from putting sharp objects into your ears to clear our earwax at all costs!

We hope today’s article has been informative to our readers, though the information should not be taken as medical advice. Readers should consult an ENT specialist for advice if you feel you have earwax build up in your ear or ears.

By Aaron
30th July 19:30 2020

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