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Why You Don’t Need to Clean Your Ears

a hearing instrument for inspecting ears

Have you ever thought about earwax? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably no. The ear canal usually contains a small amount of earwax that helps protect the ear from water, fungus and bacteria. There are also other tiny glands inside your ear that produce earwax.

Earwax is the result of ear canal secretions combined with dead ear skin. It’s very good for your ear, acting as protection against dust, bacteria, fungus and insects. Earwax production can be increased by ear infections or damage to the ear canal, eardrum, or ear bones.

Earwax

When earwax builds up more on one side of the eardrum, it can produce symptoms of pressure or drainage that people interpret as a sinus infection. The person might try to clean out their ears thinking they are increasing airflow, which will relieve symptoms but instead, they are pushing more earwax through the eardrum into their middle ear, where it will interfere with hearing. This can lead to hearing loss that may require surgery if not treated properly.

Earwax protects your ear! The ear canal is naturally self-cleaning, as earwax flows out of the ear. This serves as a protective earwax seal to keep germs and other things from entering the ear.

In addition, ear canals contain tiny hairs known as cilia. These tiny hairs move in a coordinated manner to push earwax and dirt out of the ear into the ear opening, where it can be wiped off or washed away with water. Generally, people only need to clean their ears if their ears are clogged with earwax blocking sounds from being heard clearly.

Since earwax is naturally occurring and protects the ear from infection, fluid buildup and foreign objects entering the body, it’s generally not necessary or recommended that people remove excess wax from their ear canal.

Ear Cleanings

Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions in America, but earwax isn’t to blame for it. The main causes of earwax are ear infections and earwax buildup blocking sound waves from entering the ear canals. When earwax blocks sound waves from entering the ear canal, the person loses some or all of their hearing ability.

Ear cleanings should only be used as a treatment for mild cases of hearing loss accompanied by ear discomfort or blockage that won’t go away with the regular use of ear drops containing water. Other than that, people should refrain from using cotton swabs to clean earwax out of their ear canals, as this may push earwax into the ear canal even further.

This is why people with hearing loss may need to visit an audiologist for a consultation and testing if they also experience ear discomfort, fluid buildup and other symptoms that could explain this condition. For example, if your ears feel clogged after swimming and you notice a difference in clarity when you pop them, then you should consider seeing an audiologist as well.